Friday, April 18, 2014

Liberty Village

What follows is an insiders view of events relating to the Liberty Village pilot in lieu of taxes and proposed sale of the property. It is not meant as an objective account and I certainly don't have all the facts.

Last fall I was called by Assemblyman Green and asked to speak with prospective Liberty Village buyers Tryko, Inc.  Their attorney, to be specific.  During a three way call, I stated that in order for me to better understand the merits of this transaction, I would need to meet the prospective buyers and learn for myself about their track record.  It was agreed that I would arrange a meeting and ask two other Council members to join.  I invited Adrian Mapp and Bridget Rivers, the members I thought would have the most interest and knowledge to meet the challenge. And they agreed to the meeting.  Adrian had already been called by the Assemblyman before me.   Although one blogger wrote that the meeting took place at Assemblyman Greens office, he was not present and it took place in the Liberty Village community room.  The current owner was also represented at the meeting.

During the meeting, I learned that the property and the apartments were not in good condition as the current owner was not committed to maintenance and repairs.  Tryko owners stated that they had already been hired to begin improvements and would continue once they became owners.  They also stated that the residents' housing subsidies would only remain in place if the Tryko sale included a City Council resolution approving the continuation of the subsidies as required by HUD.  Without Council support, Tryko would walk away and the current owner would sell the property on the commercial market and then the subsidies would go away and the residents who could not afford market rate rents would have to move out!

Tryko were encouraged to put their stated commitment to property improvements in writing, work with our city administration to evaluate the proposed sale and move a resolution onto the Council agenda.

I did not hear anything from the previous city administration (not a surprise for I was not one of Mayor Sharon's favored Council members) and assumed that the proposed sale was either dead in the water or would come up in 2014.  So it has.

Some of my Council colleagues have complained they didn't have enough time to evaluate this proposal and are being pressured to make a quick decision.  But Tryko has been advocating for this project with the previous administration since mid 2013 or earlier.  Did the previous Mayor tell no-one on Council about it?  I spoke with Plainfield Housing Authority Executive Director Randy Wood about this in fall 2013 (he had serious concerns about the transaction).  Did he not tell anyone on Council about it?  Did Assemblyman Green not tell anyone on Council besides me and Adrian Mapp? 

The way this has played out at Council meetings is puzzling to me.  The bottom line is that Tryko is the only entity proposing to fix the problems at Liberty Village, the only entity that has come forward with the ability to purchase Liberty Village with the intention of preserving the affordable housing that is needed for the 95 families living there.  They are proposing to make all the improvements the Council has ever wanted when these payment in lieu of tax transactions come before us.  In fact this is the only time that an increase in payments to the city has been agreed to in the 10 years I have been on the Council.

What's the problem!!!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Rebranding Plainfield

Last night, at the Gateway Chamber of Commerce Mayors Dinner, a sign of things to come took place.  Five awards were given out in front of 250 Union County business owners and elected officials.  Can you guess who was honored from Plainfield? 

I won't divulge the answer.  That will be left to others as to not steal their thunder.  All I will say is that Plainfield was presented in a very positive light at the Chamber dinner, in great contrast to image we have created for Plainfield , and city hall in particular, in recent years.

We will have to be consistent and relentless in rebranding Plainfield.  And the facts we share with our community and with surrounding communities, will have to be real, not hype.  Last night was a good beginning.