Wednesday, August 19, 2015

South Ave Gateway project

Plainfielders are asking if there are any legitimate reasons for the City Council to not approve the Gateway project.   The answer is no.  Here are the reasons given by my colleagues and why they don't add up:

1. "We were not adequately informed"
We have been talking about this for more than a year.  Reports to Council have been made by Carlos Sanchez.  I've made reports to Council as Planning Board representative and have personally offered to go over the project with several of my colleagues.  The developer presented to the Plainwood Square merchants and Councilwoman Taylor and I were at the meeting.  Planning Board meetings are advertised and open to the public. This project has been on their agenda numerous times.  Could the administration have given more information more often?  Yes they could have.  Could any Council member have asked for this project to be on the agenda for discussion at any meeting.  Yes we could have.  Council members have a responsibility to seek information to their questions.  If a new Council member begins a term in the middle of a major project, it is his/her responsibility to come up to speed and not hold up the project.

2. "The 30 year payment in lieu of taxes is too long".
This is a highly technical matter and needs guidance from experts.  The Council has a right to ask these experts questions to inform their vote.  But for a Council member to propose changes without expert advice makes no sense.  To a Council member who makes such a statement:  what do you base it on and who are your experts?  Did you seek out your advice as part of the Council as a whole?  If so, I wasn't included.

3. "We are bringing yuppies to town" 
So what.  We are bringing a whole lot more property taxes to town.  To pay for the rising costs of police and fire services, to offset all the tax appeals that are lowering our tax base.  A few hundred new residents of any description aren't going to change the demographics of Plainfield.  And if they did, is that a problem?  I welcome to Plainfield yuppies of all ethnic and racial backgrounds.

4.  "What about our public schools"
The apartments are designed for single people and couples, not families with children. 

There is always a reason not to change.  Even if every other town along the Raritan Valley line is changing.  We can continue to lose tax ratables but what will the Council say to residents who want adequate police services when we can't afford them.  Or to seniors who own homes who can't afford Plainfield's tax increases.

Here is what I think about this project.  The developer, the city administration and the planning board have worked hard to design a quality project.  It can be an asset to the neighborhood and a benefit to the whole city.  If we blow this opportunity, it will be so much harder and take so much longer to do successful projects on East 2nd Street, downtown and on the west end.  Developers will continue to take their projects and investors to other towns.

This is a crucial moment for Plainfield and its City Council.  A turning point, no matter what we decide.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Yard Waste Enforcement

For many years, Plainfielders have disregarded the state regulations on putting yard waste on the street for pick-up.  Bundles of branches, piles of leaves and brush were sitting on city streets for weeks and even months, creating unsightly and unhealthy conditions.  This problem was particularly acute in the years before Adrian Mapp became mayor because city pick-ups only occurred in the spring and fall.  Now they occur more frequently, throughout the year.  But the problem has not gone away. 

It is helpful to understand what is behind the state regulation - that yard waste must be put on the street right before scheduled pick-ups, not days or weeks ahead of time.  New Jersey wants to prevent yard waste, particularly leaves, from washing into storm sewers.  This debris eventually flows into streams and rivers, silting up and clogging the natural flow of water as it seeks the bays and ocean.

You can do your part to beautify our city and protect our environment.  If you see neighbors putting out their yard waste, don't assume the pick-up is the next day.  Check the city website for the pick-up schedule  (not the PMUA schedule).  Or put the city mailer with the schedule on your refrigerator for quick reference.  If you have a lawn service, tell them to follow the rules.  Some day the state will fine municipalities for non-compliance and Plainfield will have to fine property owners for early put-outs.  It will be a fine for the property owner, not the lawn service.