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.