Saturday, July 28, 2007

Roselle Park - Ledger - Braun: Montoya has video on her side

Published in the Star-Ledger, Thursday, July 26, 2007


Arrested Samaritan has police video on her side

A videotape taken by the Roselle Park police provides more details of a recent incident in which a young mother helping a victim at the scene of an accident found herself in handcuffs.

The videotape shows how in a span of 25 minutes, Monica Montoya, 25, of Elizabeth was reduced from a dutiful good Samaritan to a wailing and frightened mother handcuffed in the back of a police car moments after a police officer had forced her to the pavement and arrested her.

"I have to pick up my baby!" Montoya cries out from a back seat of a police car after her arrest the morning of June 20 -- an arrest that came, the tape shows, after she spent about 20 minutes helping the police with a traffic accident victim. "My baby! My baby!"

"Stop it!" shouts the officer who arrested her, Harold Breuninger. Later, he yells, "Stop talking!"

The tape also includes an off-camera discussion of what charges the cops should bring against the woman who, on her way from work to catch a bus to pick up her 6-year-old daughter from the child's first day at a new school, stopped to help another woman struck by a senior citizens' van.

A second, so far unidentified policeman, discussing the charges with Breuninger, expresses concern about what happened at East Westfield Avenue and Chestnut Street.

"It was my call and now it's totally f-----d up," the officer says. Why he says "my call" is unclear, but the tape opens with his dispatch to the scene and could be a reference to his call to the accident by headquarters.

Montoya ultimately was charged with obstruction and resisting arrest.

The tape and police reports on the incident were obtained by The Star-Ledger from Martin Perez, Montoya's lawyer, after the Roselle Park police department denied the newspaper's request, filed under the Open Public Records Act, for all related documents.

All previous inquiries to the police department about the incident have been referred to Lt. Paul Morrison, who has declined to discuss details of the incident because, he said, it is under investigation.

Yesterday, I told Morris the paper had obtained a copy of the tape and the arrest report and asked him for comment on details. He again declined "due to the ongoing investigation."

The video depiction tends to contradict paper reports filed by the police, but seems to corroborate what Montoya told The Star-Ledger in an earlier interview for a column that appeared July 9.

For example, Breuninger writes in his report:

"The entire time she was acting very irrational, refusing to listen to me or to focus on what I was saying to her."

But the tape shows that, for most of the time recorded, Montoya was calm and helpful to police, tending to the wounded woman -- Vilma Bellido, 58, of Kenilworth -- and calling the victim's relatives with a cell phone borrowed from a plainclothes policeman.

Later on the tape, Montoya appears to be asking to again borrow the same phone to arrange for someone to pick up her daughter. She becomes obviously upset -- but hardly irrational. She is depicted gesturing with her hands; in a separate interview, she said she was trying to persuade the cops that she was late getting to Elizabeth's P.S. 12 where her daughter, Emily, had just started summer school.

Montoya said she was told the detective's phone had no power, yet the detective, after she leaves him, is shown using it.

In the video, she walks off-camera, followed by Brueninger. She said she went to a crowd to ask bystanders for a cell phone. Her arrest then occurs off-camera, behind the detective's car, but the tape captures Montoya's screams -- including, her cry: "What are you doing?" People at the scene stop to look at what has happened, but no one intervenes.

Breuninger's police report contends she refused to talk to him and then refused to allow herself to be handcuffed and "flailed" her arms.

Montoya, in her interview, says she was trying to find a cell phone. Exactly what happens during the actual arrest cannot be seen.

But moments later Montoya suddenly appears on the screen, handcuffed and crying, led to the police car by Breuninger -- who is heard referring to the woman as Monica. The police report he filed states she refused to give her name.

Montoya said in the interview that she gave her name to the police. On the tape, she can be heard saying, "You know me!" -- an apparent reference to her job as a counter worker at a Dunkin' Donuts a block from the incident on Westfield Avenue, a place frequented by Roselle Park police.

The police report describes Montoya as 5-4, 120 pounds; in the tape, as in person, she appears smaller -- perhaps 5 feet, about 100 pounds. Breuninger's report explains why he forced her down, an action that raised a major bruise on her face:

"Because she was out of control, and I felt that she may be a danger to herself and me, I forcefully took her to the ground to control her and then handcuffed her. As a result of being taken to the ground, she obtained (sic) an abrasion to her left forehead and some minor scratches and marks on her arms."

Once in the police car, Breuninger finally allows her to use a cell phone and she calls a co-worker -- Emily's grandmother -- to arrange to have someone pick up the child.

Later, the car's driver -- not Breuninger -- tries to soothe Montoya, who is still crying.

"You okay, sweetheart?"

"I was trying to be a friend," she answers.

"You are my friend," the driver says.

"I needed a phone."

"I saw, I saw," the policeman says.

"I just wanted to pick up my baby," Montoya says.

Bob Braun's columns appear Monday and Thursday. He may be reached at or (973) 392-4281. Updates to this and other Braun columns can be found on line at

Online story here.

(Note: Online stories may be taken down by their publisher after a period of time or made available for a fee. Links posted here is from the original online publication of this piece.)

(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.)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Redevelopment - Ledger - Rahway 16-story residential complex

Published in the Star-Ledger, Friday, July 27, 2007

With high-rise, Rahway is now moving on up
At 16 stories, with Manhattan views, it'll be tallest residential in county

Star-Ledger Staff

From a barren concrete shell high above the Rahway train station, city officials and builders marked the "topping off" of the Skyview at Carriage City Plaza tower yesterday, the signature building of Rahway's extensive downtown redevelopment.

At 16 stories, it's the tallest residential structure in the county, dwarfing the rest of Rahway's modest Main Street. Its 178 feet are second only to the Union County Courthouse in Elizabeth and its upper floors offer something most folks in Rahway never knew they had -- a clear view of the Manhattan skyline 22 miles away.

But at yesterday's event, Mayor James Kennedy said it's the building's symbolism, more than its height, that makes it important to the city. After years of redevelopment talk, the towering downtown hotel provides a concrete example of what Rahway might look like a decade from now. Kennedy said the city has already received proposals for a 15-story apartment building across the street and another high-rise on the other side of the railroad tracks.

Coupled with several other downtown projects already underway, the new Rahway will be distinctly taller with far more people living in the town center.

"Because of this development we've been able to market the city of Rahway," he said. "This adds energy to the town."

When finished, Skyview will fea ture 222 condominium units and 102 hotel rooms under the Hotel Indigo brand, a new boutique chain launched by Intercontinental Hotels. It will also feature some 40,000 square feet of ground floor retail space, where developers hope to lure a gym, spa, upscale restaurant and small supermarket.

"We want to mirror Jersey City and Hoboken with similar lifestyle amenities," said Jason Pierson, one of the brokers marketing the ground floor.

Altogether, the project is ex pected to cost $101 million, said developer Carlos Silva of Silcon Group, including the roughly $500,000 his firm paid Rahway for the land several years ago. Its two- bedroom units are being marketed for around $350,000, while the tower's 13 penthouses will be priced at $800,000 and up, Silva said. From each condo sale, $10,000 is given to the city, he added.

The building isn't expected to open until sometime next summer, but with more than 100 condo units already under contract, Silva said his belief in Rahway is paying off.

"I've been an Elizabeth resident all my life and Rahway was always something of a missing equation," Silva said. "Now everyone's coming on board saying Rahway's the new New Brunswick, the new Hobo ken."

While the Skyview gives Rah way an encouraging start down that road, much remains to be seen. Skyview is Rahway's tallest project to date, but its most ambi tious -- a plan to replace City Hall and police headquarters with a new retail and residential village -- remains controversial, with some in town opposed to selling City Hall for development.

Jonathan Casiano may be reached at (908) 527-4012 or jcasia

Link to online story.

(Note: Online stories may be taken down by their publisher after a period of time or made available for a fee. Links posted here is from the original online publication of this piece.)

(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.)

Eminent Domain - Ledger- Fords merchants alarmed by Woodbridge plan

Published in the Star-Ledger, Friday, July 27, 2007

A town's 'visioning' has citizens seeing red

Woodbridge officials try to assuage fears

Star-Ledger Staff

Woodbridge officials tried last night to assure anxious property owners in the Fords and Hopelawn sections that planned improvements in their area would help them.

But some residents were alarmed their properties may be taken for public parking or redevelopment as part of the township's "visioning" process, which seeks to bring more business to the New Brunswick Avenue commercial corridor.

"I am worried about what's going on," said John Hansen, owner of Fords Service Center on New Brunswick Avenue. "My property is my retirement. It's my 401k."

Mayor John McCormac and a few council members tried to allay people's concerns, saying the process would be a collaborative one.

"We're here to help existing businesses," Councilman Richard Dalina said.

After the meeting, which was held to unveil a preliminary plan to jump-start the revitalization process, many audience members re mained skeptical and still had questions about the township's intentions.

The plan suggests more parking along New Brunswick Avenue; po tential redevelopment sites; revival of the local improvement district board; hiring a marketing manager for the area; tax abatements; and facade upgrades, McCormac said.

Other suggestions are to put in signs welcoming people to New Brunswick Avenue and to extend the nearby Middlesex County Greenway, a planned trail that traces an old rail line.

In anticipation of more parking, the town mailed letters to 22 property owners on New Brunswick Avenue and expressed interest in buying their land at "fair-market value."

But the letters, which were mailed at the beginning of the month, sparked speculation and fear about what they might really mean. The letters targeted specific properties that had ample room for cars, township officials said.

Many people at the meeting came because of the letters.

McCormac said if people are not interested in selling, then the town will walk away.

But the assurances did not allay Hansen's fears. Not only did he say he got a letter, but he also found out last night that his lot is being considered for redevelopment.

"I'm not happy because it is actually targeted," he said.

David Karney, owner of Dave's Auto and Towing on New Brunswick Avenue, thought the town was going the wrong way: Before addressing parking, it should bring in more businesses.

The meeting last night was the second "visioning" session for the area this year. In April, merchants and residents met and overwhelmingly said they needed more parking along New Brunswick Avenue, McCormac said.

New Brunswick Avenue in Fords and Hopelawn is a strip of auto shops, mom and pop businesses and several empty storefronts and lots.

Fords is not the only area Woodbridge officials are looking at to improve. They have been gather ing input for Oak Tree Road, which extends through Iselin. Other areas slated for study include the downtown Woodbridge area, the Keasbey waterfront and Inman Avenue in Colonia.

Sharon Adarlo may be reached at (732) 404-8081 or at

Link to online story.

(Note: Online stories may be taken down by their publisher after a period of time or made available for a fee. Links posted here is from the original online publication of this piece.)

(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.)

Eminent Domain - Ledger - Lodi trailer park beats back town

Published in the Star-Ledger, Wednesday, July 25, 200y

Lodi trailer park residents beat back eminent domain

Star-Ledger Staff

In another loss for the forces using eminent domain to reshape communities, an appellate panel yesterday rejected an appeal by Lodi officials to force two private trailer parks to move so they could be replaced with upscale housing and shops.

The ruling effectively ends a bitter four-year battle between low- and fixed-income mobile home residents and municipal officials. It backs a 2005 Superior Court ruling that found the borough built too weak a case in declaring the properties blighted.

Yesterday's decision follows a similar ruling issued last month by the state Supreme Court. And it is a victory for Public Advocate Ronald K. Chen, who entered the case on behalf of residents as part of a pledge to fight cases he deemed to be abuses of local power.

Trailer park residents and their supporters, who at times described their plight as a David-vs.-Goliath- sized struggle against a well-fi nanced adversary, applauded the decision.

Roman Vonkomarnicki, 61, a resident of the Costa Trailer Court and secretary of the grassroots group Save Our Homes, said he had often wondered where he and fellow residents would end up. The Costa and Brown trailer parks sit on 20 acres of land along Route 46 East.

"They are on limited incomes and barely survive," Vonkomarnicki said of some of the residents. "I finally think justice prevailed."

Still others said the ruling will help preserve a communal way of life quickly vanishing in North Jersey. They said the parks represent a rare affordable housing option in costly Bergen County.

The borough's redevelopment plan called for a gated senior hous ing community with 250 units and 112,000 square feet of retail space. The project was estimated to bring in $3 million in annual tax revenue, instead of about $250,000 that the borough now collects from the trailer parks.

They deemed the land "in need of redevelopment" and planned to seize it and turn it over to private developers. Towns have long used eminent domain powers to make way for roads and schools.

But in recent years, it has become increasingly popular in New Jersey to seize old industrial properties, even thriving businesses or occupied houses, to make way for large-scale residential or retail developments.

"Now we know that you can't simply say that you can redevelop on the basis that you're not getting the highest return on your land," said Michael Kates, an attorney for the park residents.

Chen agreed, characterizing the ruling as "a victory of the rights of property owners across the state."

He reinterated his call for a massive overhaul of the state's redevelopment law -- an effort that has been bottled up in the state Senate since last summer.

In last month's decision, the state Supreme Court ruled towns seeking to seize property must provide substantial evidence of blight. The appellate division case similarly faulted local officials but left open the possibility for them to make a stronger case.

But a newly elected mayor and new borough leadership doesn't appear to favor continuing the fight. On July 16, the borough council voted to withdraw its appeal, but the decision was handed down before officials got a chance to act.

"I don't believe the new governing body has any plans at this point to go back and introduce any redevelopment in that area," said Lodi Borough manager Tony Luna. "Many of the residents are senior citizens who have been living there over 40 years. I think (officials) wanted to ease people's minds and give them some peace."

Russell Ben-Ali may be reached at or (973) 392-5807.

Link to online story.

(Note: Online stories may be taken down by their publisher after a period of time or made available for a fee. Links posted here is from the original online publication of this piece.)

(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.)

Bush - Ledger - Bush as Agent 86 or Maxwell Smart

Published in the Star-Ledger, Tuesday, July 24, 2007

"Is he President 43 or Agent 86?


Just about everybody has someone George W. Bush whom calls to mind, a lookalike or someone with similar characteristics, a figure from the movies or the stage or sports. I've had the sense for some time that I've seen Bush before, in another incarnation, as it were. Now it's come to me. I know just the guy.

Bush is another Maxwell Smart.

You remember Max. He was the ditzy star of the 1960s comedy "Get Smart," a lovable bungler, a klutzy American intelligence agent out to save the world by searching out bad guys but who, in reality, couldn't track an elephant in the snow. Never thought we'd see his like again. Then along came Bush.

The similarities are remarkable. There's the clumsiness with words and facts, for example. In Max's case, it came out with one of his regular lines -- "Would you believe ...?" -- when he was caught in a glaring misstatement, such as his assertion that he could break eight boards with one karate chop, a claim scoffed at by everyone, including his "chief."

"Would you believe six boards?" Max asks. "No? Would you believe three boards? How about a loaf of bread?"

In the Bush version, it comes out this way: "Would you believe weapons of mass destruction? No? Would you believe we'll be received as liberators? How about the insurgents are in their last throes?"

Like Bush, Max is involved in a fight to the death with a secret organization. In Bush's case, it's al Qaeda; in Max's, it's KAOS. Both employ terrorism in a bid to destroy America and the West. KAOS, like al Qaeda, features a diverse set of leaders, among them "Mr. Big," who's actually a dwarf. Ditto al Qaeda, one of whose main men, Osama bin Laden, is a 6-foot-4 Arab. You can see the similarities.

Like Bush, Max is an irrepressible optimist. When he blows an assignment to bag a bad guy, Max tries to get off the hook by explain ing that he almost pulled it off but got a bad break -- "missed him by that much," Max invariably explains.

Bush might well have said the same thing when he let bin Laden slip from his grasp. He had the hard-to-miss bin Laden trapped in the mountains of Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan but pulled U.S. troops and special ops teams off the hunt to concentrate on his misbegotten Iraq invasion. In a mindless blunder, he turned the search over to Afghan tribal leaders whose loyalties were never clear. Naturally, bin Laden escaped. We missed him "by that much," you might say.

Max was always in a sweat about nuclear weapons falling into the hands of the bad guys, much as Bush is today about the prospect of a nuclear Iran. Asked by his sidekick, Agent 99, how he'd handle the matter if the offending country re fused to forgo nukes, Max came right to the point: "Then we may have to blast them. That's the only way to keep peace in the world," he declared. (Let's hope the similarity doesn't extend that far.)

Bush is audacious in a Maxwell Smart sort of way, too.

Remember when Bush in a press conference all but dared al Qaeda's turbaned terrorists to at tack American troops and installations? "Bring 'em on," Bush boasted. Max had that kind of boldness. Asked to take a job that put him in constant danger, with the prospect of torture and even death, Max jumps at the chance -- "loving it," as he tells the chief. What a spy! What a president!

The similarities don't end there. Max, like Bush, was security-conscious to a fault. Think of the "Cone of Silence."

Whenever Smart had anything sensitive to discuss, matters of national security or some top-secret operation in the making, he always took "the chief" or Agent 99 into the "Cone of Silence." Nothing said there ever became public, in part because Max usually couldn't remember what was said there.

Well, the Bush White House has its "Cone of Silence," too. It's Vice President Dick Cheney's office.

Almost nothing discussed in Cheney's inner sanctum -- energy policy, tax cuts, illegal wiretaps, prisoner renditions to foreign coun tries, permission for "harsh" interrogations (a k a torture), the latest twist in Iraq policy -- ever gets out to Congress or the public no mat ter how important to the national interest or the public welfare. It might as well be hermetically sealed.

There's even a bit of physical resemblance between Bush and Max. The close-cut hairstyle, for example, and the unfortunate smile that too often seems more of a smirk. Then there's this description from Max's Class A Control Identification Card: "sex: male; hair: black; height: 5-feet-9 (close enough); eyes: beady."

For all his blundering, it was hard not to like Maxwell Smart and to hope that just once he'd win one for our side. I feel that way about George W. Bush. He seems a nice guy who, like Max, just got in over his head. But there's one thing he could learn from Smart.

Max understood his job was to oppose KAOS, not create chaos. On that score, Bush sometimes seems confused.

John Farmer may be reached at

Link to online story.

(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.)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Operation Ceasefire - Ledger and Courier - Four articles, Aug 2006 - Feb 2007

Four stories, published in the Courier News and Star-Ledger, August 3, 2006 through February 15, 2007 [Emphasis added.]

1 - Star-Ledger, Thursday, August 3, 2006

Trenton expands anti-gang program

'Operation CeaseFire' to start in more cities

Star-Ledger Staff

The crackdown on gang violence grew some more teeth yesterday.

In touting the expansion of "Operation CeaseFire" into 10 more cities, Gov. Jon Corzine and Attorney General Zulima Farber said state and local authorities will increase the presence of state troopers in urban areas, enlist the help of citizens and seek tougher penalties on gang members who try to recruit members or threaten witnesses.

Corzine also told nearly 200 law enforcement officials and officers gathered for a summit on gang violence in Hamilton that the state will provide $750,000 toward "Operation CeaseFire."

"Combating gangs is one of my top priorities and one of the key initiatives in this year's budget," Corzine said. "It is important to continue to expand projects that have a positive track record, and CeaseFire has certainly done well."

Farber said Operation CeaseFire will be expanded in Newark-Irvington, Camden and Trenton. In addition, the program will be added to Jersey City and Paterson by the end of the year, and to New Brunswick, Elizabeth, Plainfield, Asbury Park, Lakewood, Atlantic City and Millville-Vineland by next year.

"What this means for Trenton is we have another tool in our tool box to fight gun violence and illegal gang violence," said Trenton Mayor Doug Palmer, who attended the summit. "We are going to certainly utilize the resources provided for us by the State Police and the resources of the community and the faith-based community so we do not have more people as victims, especially our children."

In Newark and Irvington, Operation CeaseFire has been under way in a 2-mile area along the cities' border since May 2005. State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes said gang shootings are down 40 percent on the Newark side and 30 percent on the Irvington side.

Despite those numbers, there have been 64 murders in Newark this year, a pace that could surpass the 97 murders last year, which was the greatest number of killings in a decade.

Fuentes said State Police intelligence officers have been in all of the cities for six months or longer gathering intelligence on gang operations and helping local police and prosecutors investigate shootings.

Citizen volunteers will be trained at the Police Institute at Rutgers-Newark to reach out to victims, witnesses and, if possible, gang members, to seek their cooperation in prosecutions.

"The goal of Operation CeaseFire is to use intelligence-driven policing to focus upon the most dangerous offenders in the most dangerous areas of the state," Farber said.

Officials said the combined police and citizen efforts are similar to those that helped lead to the arrest statewide on July 25 of 60 members of the 9 Tre gang, a faction of the Bloods, on racketeering and weapons charges. Fuentes said moves by police and prosecutors to question the potentially illegal background of bail money have kept all of the alleged gangsters behind bars.

In Newark-Irvington, three State Police detectives and one detective from each city are investigating each shooting. The State Police also are doing forensics work on evidence. Fuentes said that while Operation CeaseFire will be tailored to the needs of each of the other cities, the police and citizen work will be similar. He said troopers and police in each city also will exchange intelligence.

Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce J. Kaplan, who attended the summit, said that while Operation CeaseFire is a welcome program, New Brunswick police have been attempting to crack down on shootings of all types.

"We are not waiting," he said. "New Brunswick and Middlesex County are being as proactive as we can be to deal with gang violence, and we will continue to do so while awaiting the rollout by the state."

Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith was glad to hear the Newark-Irvington effort praised. "We still have a long way to go, but we are seeing a reduction (in shootings)," the mayor said. "The goal is to put the gangs out of business."

Corzine said he will seek legislation to toughen penalties for gangsters who injure or intimidate witnesses to gang-related crimes or who attempt to recruit young members.

A sweeping package of 17 bills aimed at quelling gun violence passed the state Assembly on May 23, and awaits action in the Senate.

Tom Hester covers state government. He may be reached at or (609) 292-0557.

2 -
Courier News, Thursday, August 3, 2006

Hard-line anti-gang initiative to expand
Police program to be added to 12 urban areas, including Plainfield.

The Associated Press

HAMILTON -- A policing program that takes a hard-line approach to gun and gang violence will be expanded from the North Jersey city where it was first tried last year to 12 urban areas across the state, including Plainfield.

The "Cease Fire" program combines law enforcement, prosecution and community outreach in areas most affected by gang violence.

A pilot program that began more than a year ago in a crime-plagued 2-square-mile area on the Newark- Irvington border saw shootings decline by about a third in the targeted zone, state police Col. Rick Fuentes said. That success prompted Gov. Jon S. Corzine to include $750,000 in the current state budget to expand the program.

Speaking Wednesday at an anti-gang summit that drew law enforcement professionals, politicians and community activists from across the state, Corzine denounced gang-spawned crime waves for creating havoc in affected cities.

A 2004 state police survey showed gangs moving from cities to suburbs. One hundred forty-three municipalities reported gang activity, more than three times the number reporting it in a more limited survey three years earlier.

There are an estimated 17,000 gang members in the state, and state police say 17 percent of the state's homicides have a gang tie.

Gang violence "undermines the ability to get to a higher quality of life," Corzine said, calling it a "moral responsibility" for New Jerseyans to protect their children from gangs, guns and drugs.

By the end of the year, Cease Fire programs will be running in Trenton, Camden, Jersey City and Paterson, Attorney General Zulima Farber said. Camden's program actually started in June, and early results show promise, Fuentes said.

Cities to get the program in 2007 are: Asbury Park, Atlantic City, Elizabeth, Lakewood, Millville-Vineland, New Brunswick and Plainfield.

The program -- Fuentes calls it a comprehensive violence-reduction strategy, while others refer to it as "intelligent policing" -- homes in on gun crimes, treating every shooting as if someone died. That triggers forensic and ballistics investigations that would not ordinarily be launched in nonfatal shootings.

Prosecutors also work to keep suspects behind bars by requesting that judges check the source of bail money to ensure it wasn't gotten through illegal activity.

"The basic mission is to stop the next shooting, to prevent crime," said George L. Kelling, faculty chairman of the Police Institute at Rutgers University in Newark.

A third component of the strategy is to seek the help of the community to make neighborhoods safer.

"Identify the natural community leaders and let them fly," Kelling said. "There has to be a real sense of moral indignation that what's happening in the streets is simply intolerable."

3 - Star-Ledger, Sunday, December 03, 2006

Operation CeaseFire's next target: Plainfield shootings

Star-Ledger Staff

Last month, a dozen bullets tore through a car in Plainfield, leaving the three intended targets inside unscathed but residents on edge.

A police investigation later determined the shooting was gang related. Suspects have been identified but no arrests have been made. In Plainfield this year, homicides are down but shootings are up, and gang violence remains a concern.

But starting next month, a new statewide anti-violence initiative will be implemented, aimed at reducing the number of shootings by treating each one with the importance of a homicide. Officers from local and state agencies will be called in to investigate each incident, sharing information and intelligence along the way. There will be greater community outreach, authorities said, with residents and block watch association members urged to report any crime they may see.

Called Operation CeaseFire, the multi-agency program has already yielded results along a two-square-mile stretch on the Newark-Irvington border, where it has been in effect for more than a year. Shootings have decreased 30 percent from the previous year there, according to the state attorney general's office.

The initiative will be phased into 14 cities throughout the state -- including Elizabeth -- bringing together specially trained officers from city and state police with teams from the Department of Criminal Justice and county prosecutors.

In Plainfield, which has a population of 47,000, three squads will work around the clock, with two from the city police and one from the state police. Three to seven personnel will investigate each shooting in Plainfield, according to its police chief, Edward Santiago. The process of intelligence gathering and forensic analysis will also be accelerated, he added, clearing a path for arrests.

Union County Prosecutor Theodore Romankow requested that Plainfield be added to the CeaseFire list after consulting with Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs and Santiago. "I felt it was an appropriate candidate because of the number of shootings," he said.

Through October, there were 52 confirmed incidents of assault with a firearm, up from 43 last year. The charge is applied any time a gun is pointed at someone or fired, according to Plainfield police. Factor in confirmed and unconfirmed incidents of shots fired, and the numbers jump.

Through July, there were 91 reports of shots fired, according to the prosecutor's office. For all of 2005, there were 143 such incidents reported.

Homicides have dropped, however, to eight, from 14 a year ago. Of the eight murders this year, five involved gang members, either who fired the gun or were hit, Romankow said.

"Aside from investigating these matters, we are combing the areas for witnesses," he said. "We are pushing as much as we can informants. Whatever is necessary to get these people off the street."

The prospect of Operation CeaseFire coming to Plainfield has been met with general support from city officials and community leaders. That isn't a surprise since crime along with economic development and taxes was one of the key issues during the most recent Plainfield city council debates leading up to Election Day.

"We have to be open to creative policing and try new things and tactics," Santiago said. Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig said he believes Operation CeaseFire "will have a positive impact in lowering the crime rate."

While Plainfield is a suburban community, said Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-Plainfield), "it has urban problems. We don't have all the resources to fight crime. These are the areas that they can really help a town like Plainfield.

Operation CeaseFire is an anti-violence initiative, authorities say, though cracking down on gangs remains the focus. There are 18 known gangs in Plainfield, according to the Union County Prosecutor's Office, although Santiago said just a handful "are active." Though some gangs may have just one or two members, there are about 250 verified gang members in the city and another 200 who could not be verified.

Those numbers are comparable to nearby Elizabeth, whose 120,000 residents account for more than twice Plainfield's population.

Terrell Alston, a longtime city resident, said he looks forward to Operation CeaseFire. Gang violence, he believes, has not subsided in Plainfield. "We have to get to the basis of why these things are occurring," said Alston, who heads up Concerned Citizens of Plainfield, a local advocacy group. "If we have a better response from our police department as well as the citizens of the city, I believe we can become a more vibrant and effective city."

Steven Hatcher, president of the Plainfield Chapter of People's Organization for Progress, agreed.

"I commend it, I hope they do it," he said. "I got a son. I don't want my son raised in a place where he's afraid to go outside."

Alexi Friedman may be reached at (908) 302-1505 or

4 - Courier News, Thursday, February 15, 2007

Plainfield to implement program to cut gun violence

Staff Writer

PLAINFIELD -- A comprehensive, anti-violence program that uses community outreach, strategic planning and state-of-the-art equipment to reduce instances of gun violence is scheduled to roll out in the city by mid-April.

State, county and local officials met Wednesday at City Hall to discuss the implementation of Operation CeaseFire, a state-funded program already in place in Newark and Irvington that officials said has been instrumental in reducing gun violence in the targeted areas of those cities by as much as 30 percent over the past year.

This new program is the latest in a series of efforts officials are mounting to increase safety in the city. Earlier this month, the city began Operation Take Care of Business, in which police officers are being deployed on foot, bike and Segway scooter patrols in a community policing strategy for the city's key downtown commercial areas.

The new gun program works by training law enforcement and community organizations on the strategies of how to reduce gun-related crimes, state police Capt. Christopher Andreychak said.

Specifically, Andreychak said that every participating city is given the tools to map its "hot-spots" of violent crimes, which then receive heightened attention by law enforcement.

The goal, Andreychak said, is for law enforcement to predict when to expect increased levels of violence in their "hot-spot" areas. Since part of Operation CeaseFire's goal is to reduce gang violence, evidence confiscated at the scenes of violent crimes -- such as bullet casings or discarded guns -- are sent to state police ballistics technicians, who see if the evidence has any connections to violent crime scenes in other cities.

"When you start cracking down on crime in one area, those criminals who aren't arrested wind up leaving that area, and it becomes difficult to investigate," Andreychak said.

In addition to training and increased connection with the state police, Andreychak said the city also will receive its own equipment, including a $5,000 "trunk-kit" with cameras and recording devices to conduct surveillance of its targeted areas.

Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig said the training of four of the department's officers, as well as civilian training to support the program's community outreach component, also is being funded by a portion of the $750,000 grant that Gov. Jon S. Corzine earmarked for Operation CeaseFire.

(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.)

Plainfield Health Center - Courier - Overview and 2 collateral articles

Published in the Courier News, Monday, July 23, 2007

Plainfield Health Center talk of the town

Patients say care, doctors 'go beyond the call of duty.'

Staff Writer

The increased number of patients using the many services of the Plainfield Health Center mirrors a national trend, as the underinsured and uninsured seek federally funded health centers for quality health care.

Yet there was the fully insured Lisa Pellegrino, taking her daughter Chelsea to the Plainfield Health Center on Thursday for a doctor's visit, just as she has for the past 15 years.

"They have always taken care of our family, and the care is absolutely wonderful," said Pellegrino, a North Plainfield resident. "The doctors go beyond the call of duty every time. Everyone from the nurses to the people in the offices when you walk in make you feel so good. My kids love the place. I don't know what more you could ask for."

In recent years, more people are asking more of the center's increasing array of services. And unlike Pellegrino, the majority of them don't have insurance and would have otherwise fallen through the holes of the nation's health-care blanket.

"The trends for us show we have a continuing increase in immigrant population, as well as undocumented cases of pregnant women," said Rudine Smith, president and chief executive officer of the facility, which since 1969, has sought to provide accessible and quality health care to lower-income and uninsured portions of the community.

The facility's main building is on Rock and Myrtle avenues, and it has two satellite locations in city schools. It also has three affiliated locations around the region.

"We have also seen an increase of people displaced without insurance because of corporations downsizing or closing up," Smith added. "So for the homeowner who fell off the ladder at home and now has no insurance, he is coming to our center for services."

By the numbers

Of the 24,489 patients served in 2006, 47 percent were uninsured, while 42 percent received coverage through Medicaid. Of those served last year, 13,347 were Hispanic or Latino (54.5 percent) and 7,801 were black (31.8 percent).

On the socioeconomic scale, 74.6 percent of the center's patients have family incomes at or below the federal poverty level.

These numbers fall in line with, or exceed, the other 951 federally approved health centers nationwide. According to a 2005 study by the National Association of Community Health Centers, 71 percent of health-center patients have family incomes at or below the poverty level. Forty percent are uninsured, while 36 percent depend on Medicaid. And 36.1 percent of those served nationally were Hispanic or Latino, while 23 percent were black.

So as one of 19 community-health care providers in New Jersey -- with none in Somerset or Hunterdon counties -- the Plainfield Health Center is an increasingly busy place.

"It's packed all the time," Pellegrino said. "But it's a great atmosphere. I've never seen anyone complain."

Because of the skyrocketing costs of medical costs and the number of services that are performed at PHC -- including dental, vision, gynecological, podiatry and the usual urgent or walk-in sick care -- the facility does face increased financial burdens.

"One of the biggest challenges we face are funding sources," Smith added. "When funding comes from the federal government, most health centers don't get the amount they need to run the operation in the beginning. So we have to rely on other grants, whether they are state grants of private grants or donations, and the rest of it is generated from patient revenue."

The center also accepts patients with other types of insurance, as well as those who can pay for the services privately.

"It's probably our biggest misconception," said Smith, who also uses the client's services as a consumer. "We are not a clinic. Anyone can schedule an appointment, come in and see the same doctor every single time -- even those who are not centrally located.

"It's just the same as a private practice," Smith added. "Yes, of course, we do reimbursements of those who are uninsured or underinsured, but we can see anyone -- no matter what economic level they come in."

Funding sources, challenges

Out of its $14 million operating budget in 2006, 48 percent came from patient services. The remainder came from federal grants and contract services.

But there is also the ever-present threat of decreased reimbursement rates. For example, the pool of state funds designated for undocumented pregnancy dried up midway through the 2006 Fiscal Year. So with reimbursement now coming through charity care, the rate dropped from $130 to $95 -- for the same level of comprehensive care.

"That's why we are always looking for funding sources, in order to close those gaps," Smith said.

Staffing can also be an issue. A total number of 225 people make up the Plainfield Health Center. It handled more than 91,000 patient visits in 2006, in part due to an extension of hours. The facility is now open 8 a.m to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday. It had previously closed at 6 p.m. on those days. It remains open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and 9 a.m. to1 p.m. on Saturday.

"We've found those night hours to be very important to patients, so they don't have to take time out of work to come see us," Smith said.

There is also the matter of retaining qualified physicians when private practices may be able to offer more competitive benefit packages, Smith added.

"But for the people who do work here, this job is a passion," she said. "It's a passion to help those that are less fortunate and to work within the community to provide quality and preventative health care."

Plainfield resident Mary Robinson, a mother of four, swears by the coverage at the Plainfield Health Center.

"All of my kids were either delivered here or treated here," said Robinson, who receives coverage through Medicaid. "I have a very touch-and-go pregnancy my last time around and they took such great care of me. Whatever problem I had, they took care of it. My baby survived with their help.

"So I love it here," she added. "They are like family to me."

  • Established: 1969

  • Plainfield locations: Main Site, 1700-58 Myrtle Ave. (corner of Rock and Myrtle avenues); "The Healthy Place," Washington Community School; Cardinal Health Center (Plainfield High School).

  • Other locations: Elizabeth Port Community Health Center, Elizabeth; Phillipsburg Community Health Center, Phillipsburg; Newton Community Health Center, Newton.

  • Patient Origin (2006): The Plainfields (67.5 percent); Elizabeth (10.5 percent); Piscataway (4.7 percent); Other (14.2 percent).

  • Services: Adult Medicine; Dental; Ob/Gyn; Pediatrics; Urgent/Walk In Sick Care; Podiatry; Vision; Adolescent Medicine; Senior Care Case Management Services; Smoking Cessation Program; Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Early Intervention Program; HIV/AIDS Treatment, Counseling and Testing; NJ Cancer Early Education And Detection Program; 340B Discount Prescription Drugs Program; Assisted Living Without Walls Program; Access to Healthcare Program for the Uninsured; Family Planning; Referral for Specialty and Diagnostic Services; Mental Health Counseling; 24-Hour On-Call Physician Coverage; Ancillary Support Services; Phlebotomy Services; NJ FamilyCare Presumptive Eligibility Enrollment; NJ FamilyCare Program Enrollment; Health Education; Medicaid Presumptive Eligibility Enrollment; Nutrition Services.

  • Institutional affiliations: Solaris Health System; Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center; Robert Wood Johnson Health Network.

Plainfield Neighborhood
Health Services Corporation

Community Health Center data for 2005
Delivery Sites
Users in 2005
Asian/Pacific Islander
American Indian/Alaskan
Private Insurance
No Private Insurance


Link to online story.

Health centers grow, but gaps remain

Gannett News Service

Americans are used to hearing bad news about their health care system --- that millions of people lack health insurance and medical costs are spinning out of control.

But amid those trends is evidence that a vital and often overlooked health care safety net is performing effectively and efficiently.

That national network of 952 federally approved community health centers serves more than 14 million poor and uninsured patients who otherwise might go without prenatal care, cancer screenings, diabetes treatment and a long list of other services.

New Jersey has 19 such centers, including centers in Plainfield -- the Plainfield Health Center -- and New Brunswick -- the Eric B. Chandler Health Center.

"I have no idea where else I would go for health care," said Shirley Dorsey, 51, a patient at Baltimore Medical System's health center. "It's important to have some place where poor people who don't have insurance can come and not be afraid of being turned away."

Since 2000, the Bush administration and Congress have nearly doubled annual spending on community health centers, to almost $2 billion. That's the largest increase in the history of the public health program, born during the 1960s War on Poverty.

Over the same period, the number of centers has increased by more than 200 and the number of patients they treat has risen by 4.5 million, or 53 percent.

The centers, located in areas deemed medically underserved, rely heavily on Medicaid payments and federal grants and must meet a number of requirements to qualify for federal funding. Most of their patients are minorities, with Hispanics far outpacing other racial and ethnic groups in growth.

Since 2000, the number Hispanic patients has surged to 4.8 million, a 52 percent increase.

How many of those patients are in the country illegally isn't known. Community health centers are required to treat everyone, regardless of ability to pay or immigration status.

Taxpayer-subsidized services for illegal immigrants is a focus of contentious debate nationwide. So far, community health centers appear to have escaped the controversy, perhaps because much of their care is delivered to pregnant women and newborns.

By fall, an additional 120 health centers in high-poverty counties will get federal startup grants.

"We've been able to make health centers available to a lot more people in places that have never had health centers," said Elizabeth Duke, administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration. "In the very best sense, (this) is what's right about America."

Studies show community health centers are more cost-effective than other treatment options. But rising demand for their services underscores their limitations.

The number of people treated at community health centers represents less than a third of those who need such services, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers.

Demand far exceeds the number of available doctors.

"We're looking for clinicians to work in our centers and we can't find them," said Alvin Jackson, director of the Ohio Department of Health and former medical director of Community Health Services in Fremont, Ohio. "It's a tragedy."

The centers focus on preventive care and don't offer surgery or specialty care for heart disease, cancer or other serious problems.

"We oftentimes have clinicians who, frankly, beg specialists to take on patients," said internist and pediatrician Kyu Rhee, chief medical officer for Baltimore Medical System.

Help wanted

About 56 million people, including many with health insurance, live in places where there are acute shortages of primary care physicians and little prospect for improvement, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers.

Without a community health center, they lack clear options for treating problems --- such as an infected tooth or high blood pressure --- that can develop into more serious conditions.

"The toll of unmet health care needs among these health care have-nots is incalculable, and the tragic outcomes they experience are appalling," Joseph Feaster, a board member of the Whittier Street Community Health Center in Boston said at a congressional briefing this spring.

Family practitioners, pediatricians and obstetrician-gynecologists are in short supply, especially in urban neighborhoods and rural towns where the centers are located.

There are more than 2,500 clinical vacancies at community health centers across the country, according to the National Health Service Corps. It offers grants, scholarships and student loan repayments to those who agree to work in medically underserved settings.

The number of doctors, dentists and other medical professionals employed at community health centers through the corps has increased by 74 percent since 2002, but that hasn't been enough.

Some of the reasons have to do with money.

Funding for the National Health Service Corps, a vital source of medical professionals for community health centers, has not kept pace with the growing need.

Because community health centers depend so heavily on federal, state and local government money -- and to a lesser extent on grants from hospitals and charities -- doctors at the centers make less than they would in private practice.

And fewer medical school graduates are choosing to go into primary care, one of the lowest-paying disciplines.

Those who choose to work at a health center say they're motivated by a sense of public service.

"During residency, I realized I didn't necessarily like taking care of the worried well," said Jessica Osborn, medical director of the school-based health program at Baltimore Medical System. "You see where there's need and I don't know that you can actually turn your back."

Focus on efficiency

Despite their problems finding doctors, community health centers deliver better continuity of care than private physicians or hospital outpatient facilities, according to a 2000 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Other studies show community health centers can outperform private physicians, hospitals and emergency rooms in price, quality of care and efficiency.

The centers give expectant mothers greater access to prenatal care, increase childhood vaccinations, lower infant mortality rates and improve the prognosis of patients living with chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Health centers also reduce the disease gap between whites and minority populations.

African-American women who receive care at community health centers, for example, deliver significantly fewer low-birth-weight babies than the national average, according to a 2004 analysis published in the Journal of Public Health Policy.

Patients at community health centers also are less likely to use a hospital emergency room for nonemergency treatment, saving money for hospitals and patients.

A 2001 study of 50,000 Medicaid beneficiaries concluded that patients who got most of their care at community health centers were significantly less likely than other patients to be hospitalized or seek emergency room care.

"Emergency rooms all over the country are providing too much primary care," said David Sjoberg, vice president of strategic services for the Baptist Health Care hospital system in Pensacola, Fla. "You have people coming in sick because they have not taken their insulin, people with the flu. Instead of going to a $40 primary care visit at a health care center, they're spending $1,500 to $3,000 to get treated in an emergency room.

Who depends on community health centers?

About 40 percent of people who seek treatment at community health centers have no health insurance. Two-thirds are racial and ethnic minorities.

Health center patients are predominantly female, relatively young and most -- approximately 70 percent -- have family incomes below the federal poverty level of $20,650 for a family of four.

About the same number of patients are treated at health centers in rural communities and urban neighborhoods, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers.

Health centers at front lines in War on Poverty

The federal community health center system was born in the 1960s, one of the many programs born from President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty.

The first two clinics -- then called neighborhood health centers -- opened in a public housing project in Boston in 1965 and in Mound Bayou, Miss., in 1967.

Since then, community health centers have evolved and expanded while remaining focused on the program's founding philosophy of providing health and social services to poor and medically underserved communities.

To qualify for federal funding, community health centers must:
  • Provide comprehensive primary health care for adults and children.
  • Treat people who meet the federal definition of medically underserved.
  • Provide care to everyone regardless of insurance status or ability to pay.
  • Charge patients using a sliding fee scale based on ability to pay.
  • Provide translation services, transportation and case management.
  • Maintain a governing board composed mostly of members who are also health center patients.
  • Operate as a nonprofit, public or tax-exempt organization.

How community health centers charge patients

Community health centers treat everyone, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay.

Many patients at community health centers have some form of insurance, typically Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for low-income Americans.

Those without insurance must document their income to care coordinators, who then determine payments based on a sliding scale that also takes into account family size.

At the eight federally approved community health care centers in Baltimore, the full price for an appointment with a primary care physician is $120. Patients with the lowest incomes pay just $12.

On the Web:, National Association of Community Health Centers Inc., National Health Service Corps., Baltimore Medical System., Health Resources and Services Administration.
Contact Larry Wheeler at

Link to online story.

Hispanics, uninsured, drive growth at health centers

Gannett News Service

WASHINGTON -- A dramatic increase in Hispanic patients and those without health insurance has crowded waiting rooms at community health centers nationwide.

The number of Hispanic patients seeking care at health centers grew by 52 percent to 4.8 million between 2000 and 2005, outpacing all other racial or ethnic groups, according to data from Health Resources and Services Administration, which oversees the centers.

Final numbers have not been published, but Hispanic patients likely surpassed whites last year in demand for care at community health centers.

Many centers have added interpreters, mostly Spanish-speaking, to help doctors and patients communicate.

"We started preparing ourselves seven years ago," said Jay Wolvovsky, president of Baltimore Medical System, which runs eight community health centers. "By hiring outreach people, bilingual staff and interpreters, we've become the premier provider to the Latino community in Baltimore."

The number of Hispanic patients treated at BMI's centers has increased fourfold to 4,500 since 2000, Wolvovsky said.

Inevitably, some of those patients are in the country illegally. No one knows how many because community health centers must treat everyone, regardless of ability to pay or immigration status.

But many in Congress and elsewhere fiercely oppose using taxpayer dollars to cover routine health care for any illegal immigrants.

"Taxpayers should not be required to pay for health care, other than emergency services, to people who are in this country illegally," said Ira Mehlman, national media director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an interest group that advocates tougher border security and limited legal immigration. "We're dealing with a finite resource. There are millions in this country who are underserved already, and you are draining resources away from them."

Elizabeth Duke, administrator for the Health Resources and Services Administration, says community health centers have not become the default health care network for illegal immigrants.

She agrees the number of Hispanic immigrant patients has grown but prefers to talk about those who are in the country legally.

"We have many established communities where you've got folks who are settled," Duke said. "They have roots. They have (green) cards."

Congress recently passed legislation requiring individuals applying for Medicaid coverage to prove they're in the country legally.

But community health center officials said that won't stop the flow of patients through their doors.

"What is likely to happen is those individuals who need to produce documentation and can't will just become uninsured patients," said Ann Lucas, executive director of Bridge Community Health Clinic in Wausau, Wis. "We will still treat them, but if they don't have insurance or sufficient money to pay, it squeezes our bottom line, and we're not getting any more money from the feds to take care of these people."

Community health centers also are coping with a significant increase in patients who lack health insurance. The number of uninsured seeking care at health centers grew 46 percent to 5.6 million patients between 2000 and 2005, according to federal data.

An estimated 46 million Americans under 65 have no health insurance.

All community health centers charge patients on a sliding scale based on ability to pay. But many patients can't pay at all. To compensate, health centers rely on Medicaid and Medicare payments, on federal, state and local grants, and on private donations.

For all their effectiveness in treating the growing population of uninsured patients, community health centers will not solve the problems that created that population, according to executives and physicians.

"Community health centers are a critical part of the solution, but we're not the answer by ourselves," said Virgilio Licona, a family physician at a Fort Lupton, Colo., health center.

Contact Larry Wheeler at

On the Web:, Baltimore Medical System., Health Resources and Services Administration.

Link to online story.

(Note: Online stories may be taken down by their publisher after a period of time or made available for a fee. Links posted here is from the original online publication of this piece.)

(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.)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Transit Village - Princeton Packet - Public Outcry Forces Hillier to Reconsider

Published in the Princeton Packet, June 8, 2007

Hillier issues strong warning on redevelopment's prospects
Politics may scuttle ambitious West Windsor train station-area project, he says

By: Greg Forester , Staff Writer

[Rendering shows new Princeton Junction train station and the "Bowl" area under the tracks, looking west toward the "West Windsor Walk" promenade and the planned residential units and mixed-use construction.]
WEST WINDSOR — The Princeton Junction redevelopment project is in trouble, according to architect J. Robert Hillier, who suggested this week that his firm might resign from the planning process.

Hillier warned township officials and the public that the political atmosphere in town was harming his firm's ability to satisfy the town's desires for the project.

"We feel that what was a positive process has been derailed by a contentious election and an increasingly divisive political environment — and we think it has jeopardized the project," Hillier said at Monday's combined Planning Board and Township Council meeting. "We are deeply concerned that it may not be possible to deliver a plan that will satisfy all of the competing demands of an increasingly polarized client."

Mr. Hillier said the current project is definitely viable, but needs advocates and champions in the community.

"This project needs those, and right now I don't know if there's anybody here that wants to build a transit village," Mr. Hillier said.

Mr. Hillier suggested the possibility that his firm could resign from the project, and allow another firm to attempt to deliver what the township wanted. "It's clear we're not satisfying West Windsor, and when you have a client you're not satisfying, you are happy to step aside," Mr. Hillier said.

These warnings from Mr. Hillier come during a political climate that saw the election of Will Anklowitz, George Borek, and Charlie Morgan, who ran on a "Best 4 West Windsor" slate with a platform aligned against the inclusion of 1,000 new homes in town.

Mr. Morgan said he did not think the project was in jeopardy, and that it would be unfortunate for Hillier Architecture to withdraw from the project.

"The fact of the matter is the best answer is not for Hillier to leave, but to restart the process," said Mr. Morgan. "We need to re-engage the public the way we promised."
Mayor Shing Fu-Hsueh said he hopes Mr. Hillier and his firm would stay on with the project, warning that the project was still only in the early stages.

"Mr. Hillier has done an outstanding job up to this point, and his firm has tried to understand what the community really wanted and needed," said Mayor Hsueh. "Bob Hillier was able to bring many different ideas into one plan, and in the next phase the council and the Planning Board need to provide a more specific direction so the project can move forward."

Following Mr. Hillier's warning to the crowd gathered at the Grover Middle School for the meeting, variations on the original plan of 1,000 residential units were introduced.

They included plans for 250, 500, and 750 residential units, along with a more detailed analysis of the original 1,000-unit plan.

The presentation displayed financial analyses by Economic Research Associates that purported decreasing financial benefits for the township with decreases in the number of residential units.

"I saw so much out there that might be outright wrong," said Mr. Morgan, of the presentations. "It was based on assumptions, and we need a process where we have access to assumptions."
Some of Hillier's presentation included changes made to the original plan that seemed to satisfy the demands of resident's identified in earlier portions of the process.

These included the addition of a pedestrian walkway connecting parking decks on the west side of the tracks and the New York-bound platform on the east and the removal of a roadway connecting Alexander Road and the Sherbrook Estates neighborhood, which pleased Councilman Will Anklowitz.

"Mr. Hillier did the right thing about the realignment of Sherbrook Drive with Alexander Road," said Mr. Anklowitz. "I look forward to discussing other details and concerns with Mr. Hillier."

The audience of residents and township officials were also treated to artists' renderings of what the downtown area near the train station and along Route 571 would look like as a mixed-use town center.

There has been discussion of a second joint meeting of the Planning Board and Township Council at Grover Middle School for June 18, but that meeting date is expected to be rescheduled according to officials from Hillier.

Comment Added: Friday June 08, 2007 at 06:06 AM EST

Politics May Scuttle Transit Village

It would be unfortunate for the residents of West Windsor and surrounding communities who use the train station in Princeton Junction if the Hillier firm took their leave of the job they were given to do in planning West Windsor's future land use around our train station.

What is moving forward, showing signs that the public is being heard, is a process that isn't perfect but that should not be derailed. It is imcumbent for the Town Council members, the Mayor's office and the Planning Board to work together for the regional and local development that this unavoidable, because like it or not, this is a transit village. More commuters will be coming our way whether or not this village is ever built.

New Jersey Transit should be required to be part of the process and to pay a fair share for their increased ridership due to the expansion. Bringing forth economic transparency in the process and working together with the Town Council is a must for the township administration. And residents are responsible too for becoming involved in this process.

Civility without threats among all public officials is the most important factor in finding consensus in the community. I do hope that this is not the end of the discussion. West Windsor could be a place with a center that we all want to visit if this works.

--Beth Feehan, Princeton Jct, NJ

West Windsor plan in need of useful formula



Prolonged observation of the controversy over West Windsor's proposed redevelopment plan for Princeton Junction makes it all too clear that the 800-pound gorilla in the meeting room is housing.

Opponents, whose desires range from less than 1,000 units to no housing at all, are understandably worried about the impact of more residents on local schools, transportation and municipal services. At the same time, many of them favor the plan's other promised improvements, including a pedestrian-friendly town center around the Princeton Junction rail station, a pedestrian walkway to connect parking decks on the west side of the NJ Transit tracks and the New York-bound platform on the east, and the elimination of the roadway which now links Alexander Road and Sherbrook Estates.

But, as the project's chief architect, J. Robert Hiller, warned Wednesday night, the economic feasibility of the plan rests on achieving a mix of office, retail and residential elements that would make the finished project a fiscal boon rather than burden for West Windsor. According to Economic Research Associates' analysis, the potential boon shrinks as the number of housing units is reduced.

That assumption is met with skepticism from housing opponents, including the new council majority, prompting Mr. Hillier to complain that the "open and positive" planning process is now jeopardized by "an increasingly divisive political environment."

We sympathize with Mr. Hillier's dilemma but there is nothing wrong with an open process of the kind he has led being superceded by the open process known as an election.
Elections have consequences, not all of them intended. And a consequence of West Windsor's election may be that the broadly supported benefits of redevelopment end up getting vanquished along with the housing.

Perhaps with this in mind, the new council majority is now suggesting that the charrette process start afresh, with Mr. Hillier's firm still in the lead.

That is worth a try and we would suggest one particular exercise to address the skepticism surrounding the necessity of housing in the plan. Why not assemble a panel of commercial and residential real estate experts to participate in an open public forum — with questions from the audience — on the market forces that would ultimately determine the economic impact of redevelopment in West Windsor?

The panelists' views may or may not reinforce the assumptions presented by Mr. Hillier. But the public's understanding and sense of participation might help build a viable consensus around a feasible formula.

Link to online story.

(Note: Online stories may be taken down by their publisher after a period of time or made available for a fee. Links posted here is from the original online publication of this piece.)

(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.)

1967 - NY Times - Plainfield ponders legacy of '67

Published in the New York Times, New Jersey Section, Sunday, July 22, 2007

Race Relations
Plainfield Ponders the Legacy of Its Own Bloody ’67 Riots



THERE is no monument to the riots that roiled this city 40 years ago. “They have something in Newark, but nothing here,” said Steven Hatcher, 45, chairman of the Plainfield branch of the People’s Organization for Progress, a grass-roots organization that marked the 40th anniversary last weekend of what is sometimes called the Plainfield Rebellion.

On Saturday the organization invited two black activists to reflect on the question: “Forty years later, did the rebellion help us or hurt us?” Around 40 people gathered at the Plainfield Quaker Meeting House to hear the discussion.

The Plainfield riots, the second largest in state history after Newark’s, lasted from July 14 to 17, 1967. More than 10 people were treated for bullet wounds, and more than 100 were arrested after riots broke out following a fight in the West End, the city’s black district.

There was one fatality. On the third day of the riots, John Gleason, a white police officer, was stomped and shot by an angry mob after he chased and shot Bobby Lee Williams, a young black man. Later that night, looters raided a nearby munitions factory, carrying away rifles and ammunition. The National Guard was called in, and the next day city and state officials began negotiations with the rioters; a truce was announced on July 18.

“This is not a sellout. It’s an attempt to prevent further bloodshed and violence,” Linward Cathcart, who was a spokesman for the rioters, was quoted as saying in The Plainfield Courier-News at the time.

Last Saturday, Mr. Cathcart, 69, stood before the audience here and described the city before the uprising as an “indentured servant community.”

“We had no political clout,” he said. “There was no one we could sit down with and say, ‘We’ve been denied our rights.’ ”

The 1967 riots accelerated community organizing efforts, he said, and prompted an investigation into police brutality. Most important, Mr. Cathcart said, they helped bring black people to power in Plainfield. Everett C. Lattimore, Plainfield’s first black mayor, was elected in 1981. “And what do you think got him there?” Mr. Cathcart boomed into the microphone. “The riots!”

Zayid Muhammad, 45, of Newark, the national minister of culture for the New Black Panther Party, was raised in Plainfield but was sent to East Orange during the riots. He called the Plainfield rioting “a unique rebellion because the community was armed and it put a check on the police and military.”

Walter J. Hetfield, 47, had driven from Milton, Del., where he lives now, to attend the meeting with his girlfriend and his two daughters, ages 10 and 12. He wanted them to learn about their family’s past. His great-uncle George F. Hetfield had been the mayor of Plainfield at the time of the riots.

The younger Mr. Hetfield, a jazz musician, witnessed the events of 1967 “through the eyes of an 8-year-old” but recalled how many white families left Plainfield immediately after the riots; his was one that stayed.

“There was a lot of fear and misunderstanding” between the black and white communities, he said. “This meeting shows that the wounds are still here.”

The activists said the riots served as a step forward for the black community, a viewpoint they complained was not represented in news coverage at the time. But they could not avoid lamenting what had become of the community today.

“We can’t honor that and be proud of this,” said Mr. Cathcart, his voice rising as he denounced the poverty, drugs and joblessness that characterize the still predominantly black West End.

Holding out a hand to the leaders of the Quaker congregation in the wooden pews, he asked them to “reach out to our community.”

“We are in trouble,” he said. “We need help.”

Link to online story.

(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.)

Race Reporting - Ledger - OpEd

Published in the Star-Ledger, Sunday, July 15,2007

Race reporting 40 years ago, and its legacy today


On July 13, 1967, as the Newark riots began to unfold, The Star- Ledger's lead story described "carloads of Negroes" surrounding City Hall, and "large roving bands of Negro youths." Three days later, the newspaper's analysis focused on "unrestrained marauding teenagers," restless youths who "came forth with the muscle and manpower to transform a localized inci dent into a rampaging riot."

It was loaded language, convey ing threat and intimidation. There was a palpable mix of fear, anger and bewilderment in the reporting -- a lot of heat and very little light.

The Star-Ledger wasn't the only publication to take that tone. Magazines such as Time and Life -- still-powerful players in a long-ago media environment, before cable news and the Internet -- devoted cover stories to the riots. Reading their coverage of the Newark un rest is revealing of how race was discussed back then.

Time magazine's July 21, 1967, cover carried the banner, "Anatomy of a Race Riot," and featured Newark cab driver John Smith on the cover -- the man whose ru mored death at the hands of the police was one of the factors that ignited the riots. Inside, the text and picture captions treated the mayhem as beyond comprehen sion, and took a dig at the social programs launched by President Lyndon Johnson.

Under a picture of a gutted store, a caption read: "After -- not before -- the Great Society." Another caption, below pictures of Gov. Richard Hughes and Newark Mayor Hugh Addonizio, read: "Even the improvements fueled the grievances."

Time's writers concluded that events in Newark unfolded for reasons "not fully foreseeable before hand nor easily explicable afterward."

Interestingly, Life, Time's sister publication, on July 28, 1967, had the exact opposite viewpoint. Its cover headline was "Newark: The Predictable Insurrection." On the cover of Life, a black child laid in his own blood on a street. The child, Joe Bass, 12, of Newark, was caught in the crossfire as a National Guardsman took aim at a looter.

Analysis by writers like Shana Alexander and Hugh Sidey begins to slowly connect the dots: the growing gap between white afflu ence and the black ghetto, the ascendance of a more militant approach to civil rights in the North, and prescient questions about Great Society programs.

"Some $30 billion ... will be poured into the cities and their people in one form or another this year," Sidey wrote. "And yet it may not be enough or it may not be properly directed."

Many readers might attribute the uneven coverage and analysis to the make-up of most newsrooms 40 years ago: They were overwhelmingly white and male. But many white reporters and editors distinguished themselves with their coverage of segregation in the South and the nonviolent resistance of the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr. Somehow, the press dropped the ball when it came to racial unrest in the North.

"I had this feeling that some (editor) high up had to say, 'Why didn't we see that coming,'" said Hank Klibanoff, the managing editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "We were looking at the South so intently."

Klibanoff is the co-author with Gene Roberts, a former top editor at the New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer, of "The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation." Their book, which won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for history, documents how the press brought the injustice of the segregated South to the forefront of public consciousness. But when Watts exploded in 1965 with six days of rioting, followed by Newark and Detroit a few years later, none of that experience in the South mattered.

In fact, the newspapers of the North had already failed to note a related story, one of the most im portant of the 20th century -- the great post-World War II migration of African-Americans from the small rural towns of the South to the big cities of the North, just at the moment when those cities were starting to lose their industrial muscle and political clout.

The Northern press simply had not done its homework, and had no meaningful and reliable sources to draw on when people took to the streets.

It took the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders -- more popularly known as the Kerner Commission, after its chairman, Illinois Gov. Otto Kerner -- to lay out the indisputable facts that the media was not equipped to fully grasp at that point. The Kerner Report found the uprisings in Watts, Newark, Detroit and other cities was evidence that "Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white -- separate and unequal."

"What the rioters appeared to be seeking," the report stated, "was fuller participation in the social order and the material benefits enjoyed by the majority of American citizens. Rather than rejecting the American system, they were anxious to obtain a place for themselves in it."

And the Kerner Report included a scathing critique of the news media, both print and broadcast, for sensationalizing riot coverage, even hyping damage and in jury estimates in some cases. The Kerner panel called on the news media to diversify their ranks, and to commit resources to covering black communities on a regular basis.

Anyone picking up a newspaper today can see evidence that the in dustry heard the panel loud and clear. "The presentation of the diverse culture we live in is much more of a mainstay in newspapers," said Klibanoff. "The prominent role of African-Americans in our lives manifests in the media in a more ordinary way." We're "absolutely" more aware of the importance of inclusiveness, he said. "Not just African-Americans, but the whole melting pot."

Still, even today, newsrooms must guard against complacency. A good question in any newsroom, said Klibanoff, is "Who aren't we covering?"

"And not just a one-hit," Kliba noff added, "but capturing and freeze-framing the world around us, the impact of those people on our culture, being curious about the world around us."

In "Race Beat," Roberts and Klibanoff note that "Watts coverage read as if it were written from a distance, from outside the ghetto looking in."

The same could be said of the coverage that followed the Newark riots. For the media, the greatest legacy of 1967 might very well be how events in Newark and other cities forced the news industry to examine its own practices, and to embrace the intrinsic value of diversity, both for the people who staff the nation's newsrooms and the communities they cover.

Linda Ocasio is a New Jersey freelance writer.

Link to online story.

(Note: Online stories may be taken down by their publisher after a period of time or made available for a fee. Links posted here is from the original online publication of this piece.)

(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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About Me

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.