Thursday, June 22, 2006

McGreevey - Ledger - Buys 1332 Prospect Avenue in Plainfield

Published in the Star-Ledger, Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Plainfield mansion for McGreevey and partner
Former governor to share 17-room, $1.4M Georgian Colonial with N.Y. financier

Star-Ledger Staff

Former Gov. James E. McGreevey and his partner, Mark O'Donnell, are about to purchase a 17-room, $1.4 million home in Plainfield's historic Sleepy Hollow neighborhood, according to two people with direct knowledge of the deal.

The ivy-covered Georgian Colonial boasts eight bedrooms, five fireplaces and four bathrooms. The neighborhood is home to several local politicians, including former Plainfield Mayor Al McWilliams and Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-Union).

McGreevey will live in the 92-year-old home with O'Donnell, a successful Manhattan financier who has been dating the former governor for about a year. The couple is expected to close the deal next week, the sources said.

Green said the neighborhood has been buzzing for several weeks with word that McGreevey would soon be moving in.

"It's good for us to have someone who has been in the circles he's been in," said McWilliams, the former mayor. "It shows there is more to our city than what you read about in the papers sometimes."

Green, who is also the city's Democratic chairman, has known McGreevey, 48, for decades, in part because Green's former legislative district was once dominated by towns in Middlesex County, McGreevey's old power base.

"I have a lot of respect for the former governor," he said. "I've known him for 20 years."

McGreevey retreated from public view after resigning the governor's office in 2004, following his public admission of a gay extramarital affair. But he resurfaced in recent weeks as he prepares to release his memoir, "The Confession," which is due out in the fall.

The palatial home, which includes a solarium, a butler's pantry and in-ground swimming pool, sits on 1.7 acres and was originally built for a founder of the New York Stock Exchange. Its gardens were designed by the firm of noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who created Central Park.

Bernice Swain, 83, who lived in the house for 25 years before moving out in 1998, said the home was a wonderful place to entertain. Her family owns the Swain Galleries, a local institution.

"There was always something going on there," she said. "We enjoyed it thoroughly."

McGreevey and O'Donnell have been looking for a home in the Plainfield area since earlier this year. McGreevey rents an apartment in Rahway, while O'Donnell now lives in Manhattan.

O'Donnell, 42, declined to comment on the pending house purchase when approached Tuesday night in East Brunswick at an event sponsored by the gay-rights organization Garden State Equality.

But a person close to the two men said they decided to buy in New Jersey, so the ex-governor could be near his 4-year-old daughter, Jacqueline. She and the governor's ex-wife, Dina Matos, live in the nearby Union County town of Springfield.

Another daughter lives with McGreevey's first wife in Canada.

McGreevey and Matos have been separated since leaving the governor's mansion in November 2004.

McGreevey and O'Donnell have concentrated their search along the train lines into Manhattan and in close proximity to his former wife's house. Green said another draw of Plainfield may have been the growing gay population, especially in the Sleepy Hollow section.

Green said he doesn't believe the former governor -- whose mother once worked as a nurse for the nearby Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center -- will get involved in local politics.

But Green said he wouldn't turn down an offer.

"Any ideas he would like to share, we would like to hear, as we would from any other resident who moves in," Green said.

Staff writers Gabriel Gluck, Josh Margolin and Steve Chambers contributed to this report.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff and Clippings have no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of these articles nor are Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff or Clippings endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

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Plainfield resident since 1983. Retired as the city's Public Information Officer in 2006; prior to that Community Programs Coordinator for the Plainfield Public Library. Founding member and past president of: Faith, Bricks & Mortar; Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield; and PCO (the outreach nonprofit of Grace Episcopal Church). Supporter of the Library, Symphony and Historic Society as well as other community groups, and active in Democratic politics.