Thursday, April 6, 2017

Stigma Free Zone is launching on April 8 at City Hall

The Plainfield City Council has passed a resolution declaring our city as a stigma free zone.  This signals that community minded Plainfield residents will conduct an ongoing public education campaign to reduce the stigma that so often is associated with mental illnesses.  The Plainfield Stigma Free Zone recognizes that:

1. Mental disabilities are nothing to be ashamed of.  One is four are affected.
2. Behavioral health problems can be successfully treated.
3. These services are available to city residents of all ages.

Please join the Plainfield Stigma Free Zone (STZ) steering committee on Saturday, April 8 from 12 PM to 2 PM at City Hall.  There will be speakers (a resident personally dealing with a mental illness; Cory Storch, Bridgeway CEO; Mayor Adrian Mapp; Mark Williams, Bridgeway Board of Trustees Chairman; Judy Sturm, CenterPath Board of Directors; and others).  Mental Health First Aid classes will be held at 11 AM and 1 PM in City Hall, led by a certified instructor. Join us to show your solidarity with our cause.  There will be refreshments.

More information can be found with this link:

The Plainfield Stigma Free Zone initiative was inspired by similar initiatives in Bergen and Morris counties and started by Bridgeway Rehabilitation Services, a non profit mental health service organization.  SFZ is supported by the City of Plainfield, the Plainfield Foundation, Union County Mental Health Board, CenterPath Wellness, Park Avenue Self Help Center, Union County College, First Unitarian Society of Plainfield, United Church of Christ Congregational, RUACH Ministries, Mental Health Association of New Jersey and other stakeholders.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Stigma Free Zone Coming to Plainfield

Plainfield is becoming a stigma free zone in support of the many people and their families coping with a mental illness.  This is a public education campaign to teach our community about mental health and encourage people to go for help, to be not afraid of being stigmatized. Mental health treatment and supports actually work.  And they are available.

mental health education is happening across the country

There is a stigma free zone steering committee sponsored by Bridgeway Rehabilitation Services, a non profit mental health service organization where I work.  Committee members include the First Unitarian Society of Plainfield, Ruach Ministries, United Church of Christ Congregational, the City  of Plainfield's recreation and health departments and Tap into Plainfield.  Mayor Adrian Mapp, Police Director Carl Riley and School Board President Emily Morgan have expressed their support.  There will be a resolution at the March City Council meeting declaring Plainfield a stigma free zone. This will be a community-wide campaign.

Psychiatric problems affect 1 in 5 people.  When you count the impact on their families, employers, teachers and friends, it becomes clear that everyone is touched by mental illness in one way or another.

Stigma often comes with mental illnesses.  That's because there are many myths that cause fear and shame about conditions like depression, phobias, bi-polar illness and schizophrenia .  The fear leads to discrimination.  The shame is the leading reason people do not seek help for their psychiatric problems.   The real shame is while treatments have been proven effective, untreated mental illnesses cause huge negative impacts in our community - on families, on businesses, on the many people struggling with these conditions.

A mentally health person is a better student, a more productive worker.  A mentally healthy young person will not turn to drugs or join a gang.  A mentally healthier community is what Plainfield can become when we know the facts about mental health,

Saturday, February 11, 2017

New Development Ordinances Come to City Council

Mayor Adrian Mapp and his administrative team have proposed  new tools for Plainfield's redevelopment arsenal.  The Council will vote on second reading on Monday night on the following:

1. a redevelopment plan for North Ave around the Netherwood Station.  This plan will set standards for what the city wants from developers.  The plan covers North Ave between Leland  and Berkman Avenues, mostly on the train tracks side of the street. This is where a long row of mostly vacant factory buildings has gradually deteriorated for decades.  This is part of the Netherwood transit village vision for mixed use residential living and commercial uses.

2. a proposal to make Plainfield's Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ) an area in need of rehabilitation.

3. a proposal to update Plainfield's 5 year tax abatement ordinance to spur investment for improvements to the mostly vacant and dilapidated upper floors of buildings in our downtown that are now only used for first floor retail.  The UEZ also covers East 2nd Street and South Second Street, underutilized commercially zoned areas in our First and Fourth wards that need incentives for revitalization. 
     buildings in need of improvement near the downtown station

The second and third ordinances mentioned above are tied together in that tax abatements are generally allowable only in areas of New Jersey declared in need of rehabilitation or redevelopment.

An objection was made at the last Council meeting on the grounds that when we give tax breaks, the Plainfield is losing revenues and that has to be made up by increasing homeowners' property taxes.  Actually the opposite is true.  Under the 5 year tax abatement ordinance, the base property assessment is still taxed at the going rate.  It's only the improvements that are not taxed for the 5 year period and after that the taxes will go up based on the value of the new improvements.  A good deal for Plainfield, especially considering that many properties in the UEZ are deteriorated and have not been maintained or improved for many years.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A Report on Plainfield Development

I went for a walk down South Ave from the Netherwood train station to Richmond St.  The city is focusing redevelopment along South Ave near the train station and there are some vacant factory buildings further down towards downtown that have gotten some recent attention.

Across from the train station - Sumo/Crown Bank have been slowly working on the four story mixed use building which is taking a long time preparing for occupancy.  But there are signs that work continues.

Corner of Berkman and South - the large factory building was getting new windows as I walked by.  This will be a storage facility when it is ready.

Next door - is the Edward Paul building, a large factory building that has been out of use for many years.  It is equally distant from each of Plainfield's train stations but not within the transit village zone.  Its future involves a crucial development decision.  In the past, developers have expressed interest in renovating it for residential use.   But if we allow that, the door is open for residential use the full length of the rail line between the train stations.  This is undesirable.  We need a balance of residential and commercial.

Another property with commercial development potential is next door to Edward Paul - the corner of Richmond and South, currently a vacant lot.  

Commercial development is important because it brings tax revenues without the expenses for services that new residents bring.  It also brings much needed jobs.  Our Planning Board has wisely zoned the city to maintain the character of residential areas and concentrate commercial development around our train stations and our shopping districts.  This block between Berkman and Richmond along the rail line needs new businesses.  With the momentum created by the Mapp administration, we should raise our expectations and not settle for less than well balanced, quality development that will have lasting value for current and future residents, especially those needing employment. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Cleaning Up Our Community

This past Sunday morning, for the second week in a row, a group of Plainfielders did a clean-up around the downtown train station.  Its one thing to lament the sight of trash in our city but another thing entirely to volunteer your time and energy to a good cause like beautification of public places.  I thank those involved.  Sunday saw 15 people, including some from a Scotch Plains Boy Scout troop, clean up 20 large garbage bags of litter.  Thanks to the presence of three Shade Tree commissioners, trees were trimmed and shrubs were cut back to increase visibility and sight lines, improving public safety for pedestrians.  Some of the volunteers are pictured below:

It only took the initiative of several people to get these clean-ups started.  Notably, one of them,       Timothy, is new to Plainfield!  The group welcomes anyone to join them.  They will do another        clean-up next Sunday at a location to be announced, possibly Netherwood station.                            
Councilman Barry Goode is also taking the lead for community clean-ups.  He will be leading one     this coming Saturday from 9 AM to 12 PM, beginning at the corner of West Front and Clinton Ave. 
Please come up and support these efforts.  While some are arguing who is responsible for cleaning our streets and properties (NJ Transit?  City of Plainfield?  PMUA?), our neighbors are taking matters into their own hands.  This is not an unpaid job - your compensation is a feeling of satisfaction and meeting some wonderful community oriented neighbors.                            

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Supporting Our Youth

The recent violence around the globe and particularly close to home has Plainfielders wondering about our safety.  Even more worrisome are recent shooting deaths of young people.  This is not unique to our city but it is happening here and elected officials have a responsibility to take necessary steps to stem the tide.

Perhaps the best place to start is with what not to do.  We don't want to spend time, energy and money on fixing what is not broken.  That is our Police Division.  In other cities, an investigation into the police could be an appropriate step to respond to allegations of discrimation but Plainfield already has a police force that is demographically reflective of our city.  The exception is being solved as we are currently bringing more Latino officers onboard. 

The City Council heard a detailed report on police division efforts to implement best practices using an accreditation process.  Our police are not profiling suspects or writing superfluous traffic tickets to African American motorists, as we continually see from a neighboring police force.  While there is always room for improvement, I feel confident saying we have an exemplary police force with excellent leadership.  They need our support as every day they are putting themselves in harms way to protect us.

What we should do is take a multi-faceted approach to community development.  More and better educational and job training opportunities for young people, mentoring, recreational programs, re-entry services and jobs for people returning from the criminal justice system.  There are dedicated Plainfielders making valuable contributions on each of these fronts.  But in our city, with limited resources, what we have most of is human capital.  We need more of it and more coordination of it.  That takes leadership, perhaps the ingredient most needed. 

Our mayor, Adrian Mapp, has taken some creative approaches to the challenge of supporting our youth.  We need to support the youth summit that is being planned.   When local politics divides us, we need strong voices to stay positive and focused on problem solving,  I .think it was our mayor, who said, at Eric Watsons funeral: "do something for the community - you don't need to take credit for it - you know you did it - that should be enough".

Monday, April 18, 2016

Why I Support Anderson - Hurtt - Pile for School Board

The current Board of Education needs to change.  There is a problem with transparency and, as Lynn Anderson says, how can you know where you're going without a vision and without knowing where you are today.  It is too difficult for parents, for the community to understand where the Plainfield Public Schools are today because the school board makes it so. 

And there are legitimate questions about how the Board spends money.  Moving the election back to April, instead of November, will cost the schools $99,000 this year and a similar amount every year going forward.  That's because Plainfield is the only town in Union County that isn't having its Board of Ed election in November.  Wilma Campbell, the current Board president and head of the ticket against change, claims that voting in April keeps the Board election from being political.  That argument has no credibility. 

There is another quality candidate on the ballot, running alone.  But to change the Board of Education, you have to have a majority of  5.  Anderson, Hurtt and Pile would make that change happen.  I hope you will join me on Tuesday to support these candidates.  If they prevail, Plainfielders will have a Board that wants us to know the school districts strengths and weaknesses, that will hold the Superintendent accountable for carrying out a vision backed up by measureable objectives, ones that are shared by the community.