Monday, December 22, 2008

BUF - Legal Notice - UCIA Bond - $7M - 9/13/2007

Published in the Westfield Leader, Thursday, September 13, 2007 (from PDF)



ORDINANCE NO: 657-2007

INTRO: 9/6/2007

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the following proposed Ordinance was introduced and passed on the first reading at a Regular Meeting of the Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Union, New Jersey held on the 6th day of September 2007, and said Ordinance will be taken up for further consideration for final passage at a meeting of said
Board to be held at its meeting room in the Administration Building, Elizabeth, New Jersey, on the 27th day of September 2007, at 7:00 p.m., or as soon thereafter as said matter can be reached, at which time and place all persons who may be interested therein will be given an opportunity to be heard concerning same.

A copy of this Ordinance has been posted on the Bulletin Board upon which public notices are customarily posted in the Union County Administration Building of the County of Union and a copy is available up to and including the time of such meeting to the members of the general public of the County who shall request such copies, at the Office
of the Clerk of the Board of Chosen Freeholders in said Administration Building, Elizabeth, New Jersey.

Nicole L. DiRado, Clerk of the Board of Chosen Freeholders


WHEREAS, the Union County Improvement Authority (the “Authority”) has been duly created by an ordinance of the Board of Chosen Freeholders (the “Board of Freeholders”) of the County of Union, New Jersey (the “County”), as public body corporate and politic of the State of New Jersey (the “State”) pursuant to and in accordance with the county improvement authorities law, constituting Chapter 183 of the Pamphlet Laws of 1960 of the State, as amended and supplemented from time to time (the “Act”); and

WHEREAS, The Torain Group on behalf of its Client, the Black United Fund or its affiliate or transferee has requested the Authority’s assistance in relation to the expansion of a pre-school facility in the City of Plainfield; and

WHEREAS, the City has expressed its support for the Project in a letter from the Mayor dated August 7, 2007; and

WHEREAS, the Authority proposes to finance the Project through the issuance of one or more series of Bonds (the “Bonds”) in an aggregate principal amount of not to exceed $7,000,000; and

WHEREAS, the Bonds shall have such other terms as set forth in those certain resolutions authorizing the issuance of the “Revenue Bonds, Series 2007 (Black United Fund-Plainfield Project)” of the Union County Improvement Authority to be adopted by the Authority prior to the issuance of the Bonds (the “Bond Resolution”; the Bond Resolution, and any amendments or supplements thereto in accordance with the terms thereof may be collectively referred to as the “Bond Resolution”); and

WHEREAS, the principal of (including sinking fund installments, if any) and interest on the Bonds when due may be, if the Authority determines it to be in its best interest, insured by a municipal bond insurance company (the “Bond Insurer”) in accordance with the terms of a new issue municipal bond insurance policy (the “Bond Insurance Policy”); and

WHEREAS, the Authority shall make application to the Local Finance Board in the Division of Local Government Services of the Department of Community Affairs of the State (the “Local Finance Board”) for the Local Finance Board’s review of the Project; and

WHEREAS, the Authority believes: (i) it is in the public interest to accomplish such purpose; (ii) said purpose is for the health, wealth, convenience or betterment of the inhabitants of the County; (iii) the amounts to be expended for said purpose are not unreasonable or exorbitant; and (iv) the proposal is an efficient and feasible means of providing services for the needs of the inhabitants of the County and will not create an undue financial burden to be placed upon the Authority.

Section 1. In accordance with Section 13 and all other applicable law, the Board of Freeholders hereby consents to (i) the Project and the financing of same, (ii) the execution and delivery by the Authority of the Financing Documents and such other documents as necessary and reasonable for the transaction, which documents shall be filed with the Clerk of the Board prior to the issuance of any Bonds, (iii) the adoption by the Authority of the Bond Resolution, and (iv) the issuance, sale and delivery of the Bonds to effect such purpose. The consent hereto given to the Financing Documents contemplates the insertion of the final financing terms.
Section 2. This ordinance shall take at the time and in the manner provided by law.
Section 3. Upon the adoption hereof, the Clerk of the Board of Freeholders shall forward certified copies of this ordinance to the County Manager, County Counsel, Executive Director of the Authority, and John G. Hudak, Esq., Bond Counsel to the Authority.

1 T - 9/13/07, The Leader Fee: $131.58

2009 Primary - PolitickerNJ - SRB will try to withstand New Dems

Published on, Monday, December 21, 2008

December 21, 2008 - 5:05pm

In Plainfield, Mayor Robinson-Briggs will try
to withstand Mapp's New Democrats

By Max Pizarro, Reporter

PLAINFIELD – Get it right in four years or you’re gone.

That’s the message the voters consistently deliver in the Union County city of Plainfield, and looking at past results, most of their elected leaders get it wrong.

In 125 years of political wrangling, only one mayor won reelection here.

That was the late Al McWilliams, a self-professed New Democrat who in 2005 failed to get over a rising crime wave and lost his bid for a third term to machine Democrat Sharon Robinson-Briggs by 325 votes, 2,713 to 2,388.

Now Robinson-Briggs, 49, Plainfield’s first woman to serve as mayor, readies for her reelection campaign next year in what will likely be a hard fought Plainfield contest with once and future councilman Adrian Mapp, a McWilliams ally and now leader of the New Democrats, who’s energized by his successful return to local politics.

Mapp already filed to run for mayor – a $35,000-per year part-time job - with the state’s Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), but insists he’s not yet made a final decision.

“If more and more people approach me I will consider running,” says the 52-year old former county freeholder and at-large city councilman, who earlier this year defeated Robinson-Briggs ally Don Davis by a 10 percent margin to become the 3rd Ward councilman.

“If there’s a groundswell of support for me, I would give it very serious consideration. I would be guided by the desires of the people.”

Should he run, Mapp, a CPA and chief financial officer in Roselle, is likely to make competence the issue as Plainfield’s nearly 48,000 residents this year lost Muhlenberg Hospital – the city’s biggest employer of 1,000 jobs; while homeowners fear the prospect of a local tax increase of 9.5 percent.

“The roads are in a state of disrepair, people are paying high taxes, and we have a shrinking commercial tax base,” says Mapp.  “Residents don’t feel their tax dollars are offering a return on investment. They want to know their elected officials are capable of leading. Clearly, the city needs someone to get out front.” 

In defense of her administration, Robinson-Briggs says the 9.5 percent figure reflects on a working $78 million budget that has not yet received state extraordinary aid. She continues to examine every option in difficult economic times, she says, including renegotiating contracts and implementing a four-day work week for city employees.

As for the hospital, Robinson-Briggs with pain in her voice argues that she did everything she could to avert what was ultimately a private sector decision made by the suits at Solaris Health Systems.

Her administration lobbied the hospital itself, and failing that, “We sent an overabundance of letters to Gov. Corzine,” says the mayor. “We proposed a statewide lottery with money to be divided among (urban) hospitals (like Muhlenberg). That was an idea that didn’t pan out. We started to work on the issue at the end of last year. We wrote over 2,000 letters. I understand the governor is in a tight spot and looking at things equitably in the State of New Jersey. 

“But I told them, if you close the hospital, people will die.”

While the mayor refrains from listing her accomplishments days before her New Year state of the city speech, observers of Robinson-Briggs’ administration say positives during her four-year watch include crime reduction, fewer workers on the city payroll than when she took office, and construction of a senior citizen complex on Front Street for under $1 million.

People like her.  What she lacks comparatively in schooling, she makes up for as a ceremonial force whose positive energy fills a room.

“The mayor is very warm can and can connect with people in an emotional way,” says At-Large Councilman Rashid Burney. “Adrian Mapp’s base is more affluent and educated.”

“No, Adrian’s not Bill Clinton,” admits 2nd Ward Councilman Cory Storch. “But he’s really good with constituent relations. I saw that when he first served on the council. Then there’s his financial background. He’s going to run on fiscal management and delivering overall quality of services.”

If the mayor’s poise and interpersonal skills – “Let me give you a Plainfield hug,” she tells a newcomer - and Mapp’s numbers-crunching prowess jump out as arguably the political antagonists’ most obvious strengths, both the councilman-elect and Robinson-Briggs also have important allies on their respective sides who underscore the city’s political divide between the regular Dems and the New Dems.

Robinson-Briggs boasts the political muscle of Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-Plainfield), speaker pro tempore in the state legislature, who championed her early in her career on the school board and who has ready access to Democratic Party campaign cash.  Green’s own PAC dropped $8,200 on Shannon-Briggs’ massive $200,000 campaign effort in 2005, while the assemblyman generated significant campaign contributions from Statehouse allies like Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville) and Assemblywoman Nellie Pou (D-Paterson).

Mapp, meanwhile, enjoys the alliance of the New Democrats’ symbol of polished poetic justice in the person of Annie McWilliams, 24-year old eldest daughter of the late and – in some quarters – beloved – mayor, who died of kidney cancer in April of 2007.

As Mapp’s running mate, the young McWilliams crushed the organization’s at-large candidate in the June primary by a 3-1 margin.  

A Wharton School of Business graduate who will serve as the city’s at-large councilwoman when she gets sworn-in with Mapp come January, McWilliams comes out of the ward that contains the Sleepy Hollow neighborhood, Plainfield’s own ivy covered homage to Victorian grandeur. She supports a Mapp mayoral candidacy, and at the very least makes it clear, “I will be disappointed if we see this mayor back in office.”

Coming off their win, the Mapp-McWilliams duo can make a compelling case that the New Democrats have momentum as they consider a citywide contest in Plainfield’s four wards.

Mapp in November seized control of the council seat in the mayor’s home ward, officially dealing her some disrespect in her own neighborhood.  In addition to his base support in the 3rd ward, where presumably he would have to fight the mayor house to house for votes, Mapp can count on the old McWilliams support in the 2nd ward, reanimated by his daughter and reinforced by Storch.  The 2nd remains the New Democrats’ strongest ward, where Al McWilliams built his own base of operations.

In their 2005 face-off, McWilliams won the 2nd over Robinson-Briggs by 273 votes: 924 to 651.

The late mayor lost in the city’s three other wards, by 224 votes in the 1st, 170 in the 3rd, and 204 in the 4th.

Already in possession of a political structure in Robinson-Briggs’ home ward and anchored in the 2nd by McWilliams, Mapp faces the challenge of reaching out to those two wards where the sitting mayor has an advantage over the New Democrats, the regular Democrats’ bread and butter districts: the 1st and 4th wards.

Predicting the usual political conflagration here next year, politicos like Burney are staying uncommitted for the moment.

“If I pick a side now and that side loses, I’m out,” says the at-large councilman, who ran and won as a New Democrat but has since tried to be more independent, in his words.

“I respect and like Adrian Mapp a lot, as I do the current mayor,” says state Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union). “I will say that any attacks on elected officials regarding the hospital closing are absolutely unfair. From the get-go, market factors made it impossible for the hospital to remain open.

“The two main issues in Plainfield are education and crime,” adds the senator. “It’s no longer an Abbott School district. Crime is reduced. Usually in an economic downturn you see an escalation of crime but that’s not happening.”

Eighteen miles southwest of Newark, Plainfield resembles a smaller version of New Jersey’s biggest city – at least demographically: 62 percent African American, 21 percent white, 25 percent Latinos of any race. Its downtown looks like some headlong train trestle melding of Union City, Orange, and Passaic, heavily textured from the neon-lit windows to the curbs.

“The Queen City,” says native son, Assemblyman Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield), who served on the city council representing the 2nd ward from 1985 to 1991 before he moved to Westfield, the second to last Republican to serve on the council.

On Friday, the city mobilizes to confront a snow and ice storm. 

The mayor’s on duty in City Hall.

A fire truck slaps slush in the windshields of oncoming traffic as it heads downtown, through a blur of African hair braiding studios, Mexican restaurants, grocery, private detective and bail bonds stores, tattoo parlors, donut shops, past the Religious Society of Friends- Quakers, they settled the town - under train tracks and past Central Americans in front of diners trying to make eye contact with drivers of passing cars, and public works employees in yellow vests on foot in the falling snow, shoveling. 

A gray public building, one of New Jersey’s blue collar pyramids - in this case a post office - emblemizes the older era, when some WPA architect dreamed Greek columns could as appropriately adorn Watchung Avenue as the Parthenon between the liquor stores and a passing beef-pork-poultry truck out of Elizabeth.

It’s been over 40 years since the 1967 Plainfield riots, an era when Mayor George Hetfield conducted city business from the auspices of a local country club and the hard luck 4th Ward went up in flames and a mob killed Officer John Vincent Gleason, Jr.

And Hetfield – guilty or not, those who were there judged – was voted out of office, carrying on the one and done mayoral cycle that Al McWilliams finally broke and that Robinson-Briggs wants to break again.

On the hill overlooking the rest of the city, above the factories and abandoned factories and projects of the 4th Ward - “There used to be a Mack Truck factory there, a great big factory,” remembers Bramnick – stand the 2nd Ward Wall Street millionaires’ massive summertime mansions of all styles - Colonial Revival and Jacobethan Victorian, Queen Anne’s, Tudor, Second Empire, after a while you can start inventing names that evoke elegance but still not get to the architectural finery that is only, of course, part of the city’s legacy; as Robinson-Briggs and Mapp and McWilliams and Green, and everyone, gets ready for yet another season of politics in Plainfield.

Max Pizarro is a Reporter and can be reached via email 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 CLIPS endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Robinson-Briggs - Courier - Cooke: On not taking calls

Published in the Courier News, Saturday, December 20, 2008

[Robinson-Briggs...taking phone calls]

Color in Black And White
Being 'nice' does not qualify you to run for governor

Jay Jefferson Cooke

I am sure you've heard the expression "Nice guys finish last."

Well, I sure hope so.

I don't know whether to be bothered beyond belief or disgusted to distraction with the announcement that Franklin Mayor Brian Levine has filed papers to run for governor.

Levine, who is referred to as a "nice guy" by almost everyone who mentions him to me, has a good chance of becoming governor. How do I know? Because if Central Jersey voters are an indicator of voters statewide, Levine can't miss. Let's face it — Central Jersey voters elected a kindergarten class to the South Plainfield government; elected an underqualified, pompous, "red-menace" fabricator Deborah Trout (who if she were not so dangerous might be referred to as a scalawag) as sheriff of Hunterdon County; elected Sharon Robinson-Briggs — who you never can get on the telephone unless she calls you to say "we need you to cover this fabulous event that I am going to be present at" — as mayor of Plainfield; and the less said about Mike Ferguson, the better.

Now, Levine may be as nice as the smell of a rose garden after an April shower, but what in the world has he done as mayor of Franklin to make anyone believe he should be the governor of New Jersey? As previously stated in this column, I have heard precious little else about Franklin this year but the growing gang problem that exists there. At the township's 11th Anniversary Community Breakfast Commemorating the Life & Work of The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr., Levine inappropriately used his speech to say "we have to take Franklin back from the gangs." Well, he failed. And probably because he had no plan, and neither did the Franklin Police Department. And who can forget that under Levine's watch, Franklin Councilwoman Kimberly Francois, who during the past few years has been one of the most vocal when it comes to talking about expelling gangs from our society and spearheaded a supposed effort to purge gangs from Franklin, still has not said "boo" on the subject of her son Rahmel Francois' criminal and gangster activity. Rahmel Francois (before he went on the lam to who knows where) lived with Madame councilwoman and has been indicted on charges of conspiracy, eluding, possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute, unlawful possession of a weapon, unlawful possession of an assault firearm, violation of weapons laws, unlawful possession of a large-capacity ammunition magazine, receiving stolen property and being a person not to have a weapon.

Mr. Francois, who is much too despicable a criminal to be called a rapscallion, still presumably is running from the law (if he hasn't stopped running because apparently no one is trying to find him) and has been linked to gangs by law-enforcement officials. But the Boys in Blue haven't managed to produce him for trial. Maybe they should check Ms. Francois' basement, but they must be careful not to trip over any weapons of mass destruction that President Bush believed were in Iraq.

Ms. Francois refused my call to resign from the Council, and Levine has done nothing. Perhaps Levine would find it gauche to ask Ms. Francois why her offspring is Franklin's Most Wanted. Perhaps as governor he will allow the entire state government to let their offspring deal dope, stash weapons, launder money, etc., etc., from their homes. Maybe Drumthwacket can be turned into a hideout for America's Most Wanted.

Perhaps if that happens, Levine will make a speech saying something like "Drumthwacket cannot and will not be a place that gangsters can use as a safe haven — we must take it back from the gangs!"

I took another spin around Franklin Township this week. It's reasonably big. But it isn't the entire state — heck, it isn't even the entire county. Levine hasn't done a sufficient job leading that municipality. I hope Levine changes his mind and decides to do a better job in his own backyard. I don't trust New Jersey's voters not to elect him governor.

Thanks for reading. If I ever need an ambulance, I want the dangerously delightful duo Diana Rivera and Kimberly Selmer to give me the ride. And I may just need an ambulance after receiving a collection of stupid holiday newsletters, which naturally I did not read.

Online story here. Archived 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 CLIPS endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Council President Gibson - Courier - Letter: CBAC failed in its task

Published in the Courier News, Saturday, December 13, 2008

[Letters to the Editor]
Citizens panel failed in its budget task

The editorial comment in the Courier News printed on Friday, Nov. 28, without a rational interpretation, requires what I consider a reasonable response. The report presented by the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee contains comments and recommendations that are inaccurate and lack any substantial documentation to support the conclusions.

The Courier News editorial stated I, as City Council president, complained the committee overstepped its bounds. Your inquiry of "What did he expect? Only positive opinions? No opinions at all?" [sic] What I expected were conclusions and recommendations based on facts. The truth is all any of us on the governing body should expect. I do not consider a request for accuracy "whining." For the record, I want your readers and the citizens of Plainfield to know I am not mad.

Under the CBAC Observations section the comment, "How can we expect parking tickets and potholes to be "high quality," if we're not," and the comment "Several city employees forget who pays them," without identifying either the employees or the work area of such employees (even if this were done in confidence) leaves one to conclude this comment is generally applicable.

The CBAC also indicates "more substantive cuts and efficiencies are possible." If that is true, the locations where such cuts could be made should have been identified.

In the report there is a general statement that the CBAC was "disappointed in City Council attendance and somewhat passive responses." The councilperson(s) should have been identified. As one who is serving in what is commonly referred to as a "lame-duck" status, I am proud of my continued attendance record during the time the CBAC has functioned.

The area of the report which should be carefully re-examined is entitled "CBAC Approach." There is no credibility in the 100 percent point totals. First, the "30" assigned to Public Safety together with the so-called grades fails to take into consideration the fact that the crime rate in our city has consistently been lowered. The subjective grading process with no statistics to back it up is, and should be cause for concern. This section goes on to include a "25" for performance/reputation of the school system with a consistent "F" grade for the public schools performance. This area should not have been a part of the budget process as the city administration nor the municipal council has any control over the budget of the Plainfield Board of Education.

The section of the report entitled "Overall Budget Recommendations - 1," states "No Budget Increase." Presuming all the members of the committee have a degree of concern for what was presented on their behalf, they should know there is no way, considering contractual agreements, the Council can arrive at a zero percent increase. The CBAC states there has been "Significant progress made in the last three years to reduce operating expenses, and further, 2008-2009 budget faces extraordinary conditions." This is probably the most accurate comment in the report.

The "Overall Recommendations 2 and 3" have credible suggestions although there may be areas where the council cannot do more than suggest the changes to the administration.

We clearly recognize it is our responsibility to strike a budget but we also must recognize their [sic] are services which must be made available. There is no quarrel on my part with the CBAC effort to do a good job. The resulting report is a document with errors of fact and judgment.

Finally, the area of recommendations in the Appendix is full of first person, "I" and "My" preceding recommendations. It makes the final determinations appear to be one person's judgment as opposed to a committee.

I respect the Courier News' right and obligation to express, as the editorial states, "Our Position." I ask for nothing less.

Harold Gibson
City Council

NOTE: This letter appeared in the print edition cited above, but not online. I have transcribed it exactly as it appeared in the printed newspaper, without editing or 'tidying up'. -- Dan Damon

(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, December 01, 2008

Webcasts - Courier - Branchburg gets Webcasts of town meetings

Published in the Courier News, Sunday, October 5, 2008

Branchburg plans Web video of municipal meetings


The township committee has awarded contracts to stream municipal meetings over the Internet and make improvements to Old York Road.

[Building improvements at Old York Road.]


The committee also awarded a roughly $21,000 contract to Intelligent Meeting Management of Ronkonkoma, NY to Web cast government meetings via the township's Web site at The service would cost the township $9,000 annually, officials said.
Mayor John Sanford said the service should be in place within a matter of weeks.

"I think the more that government can do to be transparent, to be transparent to the people that government serves, the better," Sanford said.

Sanford said he has also talked with school officials about using the service to Web cast their meetings, and the township could apply for a shared services grant to subsidize the cost.

Martin C. Bricketto can be reached at 908-707-3176 or

Website: "IQM2: Intelligent Meeting Management"

(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.)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Library - Courier - Auction of Homer Paint to benefit posterity

Published in the Courier News, Thursday, November 27, 2008 (online 11/28/2008)

Plainfield hopes painting draws big bucks

By MARK SPIVEY • Staff Writer • November 28, 2008

PLAINFIELD —A young fisherman who lived in Maine more than a century ago could unwittingly wind up being among the most generous donors in Plainfield Public Library history.

He was the model who posed for Winslow Homer's "Winding Line," an approximately 16-by-23 inch oil-on-canvas painting depicting a young man untangling a fishing line while leaning against a small boat on a rocky shore. The piece is emblematic of the native Bostonian's finest work, much of which details rural life along the East Coast toward the end of the 19th century.

The painting, along with two other Homer originals, represented a centerpiece of the library's extensive Fine Arts Collection for decades. But when funding for $6 million of long-term library renovations recently fell short by about half, the library board unanimously elected to convert a masterpiece into a windfall.

The painting, which has been appraised from $2 million to $3 million, matches a 1929 Georgia O'Keefe work as the most valuable piece available in "American Paintings, Drawings & Sculpture," a 184-lot auction scheduled next week at the world-renowned Sotheby's in New York City.

"We want this for the community, and they deserve the best," said library board President Anne E. Robinson. "So we did some soul searching about tailoring our assets to our mission."

According to Sotheby's auction notes, Homer, who ranks among the premier artists in American history, likely painted "Winding Line" shortly after his first trip to Prout's Neck, Maine, where he would live from 1883 until his death in 1910. A likely description of the work, the notes indicate, appears in the Nov. 6, 1875, edition of Appletons' Journal, a 19th century periodical covering literature, science and art.

The journal article, describing a series of paintings Homer completed during his 1875 summer vacation, notes a "very picturesque figure of a young fisher-boy, who left his nets for a good consideration to devote his time to the business of posing for Mr. Homer."

"In one of the pictures in which this boy appears," the article reads, "he is sitting upon the edge of a broad, round-keeled boat that has been drawn upon a pebbly beach, beyond which the blue seawater is dancing in a small cove."

The painting was first bought between 1875 and the turn of the century by Benjamin M. Day, who "probably acquired (it) directly from the artist," according to Sotheby's notes. After it was bequeathed to Day's widow upon his death, it was then left to Benjamin M. Day Jr., the couple's only son, upon her death in 1931.

The Day family, according to Da Rold, lived in North Plainfield for several decades in the late 19th century and early 20th century, when the library billed itself as a "Library, Art Gallery, and Museum." Benjamin Day Sr. even loaned out the three Homer works to be displayed during a library exhibit, Da Rold said, before his son donated them permanently the same year he inherited them.

Painstaking research was undertaken to confirm the painting's provenance, according to library director Joe Da Rold, who said the timeline of the work's ownership is indisputable.

"I will say Ann and I really have done a lot of homework," Da Rold said. "We even hired an attorney to search the wills from the Day family to make sure there were no errors, that all the records were correct."

It was during a February Chicago Art Museum exposition at which "Looking Over the Cliff," the library's Homer watercolor, was on display that officials were first made aware of a spike in value of their oil painting (the third Homer original in the collection is a lithograph).

"We'll put it this way: we always knew it was worth a lot, but it had not been officially reappraised in over 10 years," Da Rold said of the revelation that the work ranked toward the top end of some of the most valuable American paintings in existence. "The new appraisal really jumped out at us, being very extreme, and then it was suddenly costing us more to insure it."

Nearly $20,000 more, Da Rold added, as one of the library's greatest assets turned into one of its bigger headaches.

"Unlike the watercolor, which has been exhibited in major museums throughout America and included in important art books, the oil painting has been hidden away in storage," Robinson said. " As a neglected masterpiece, never seen or known in art circles, its value had suddenly become a liability."

It was for those reasons that the work, which had sat locked away in a bank vault for years — the risk of displaying it in the library was too great — was put up for auction. Research into the painting's provenance also revealed that Day's 1931 donation came free of restrictions against the library's use of it.

Library officials are hopeful that, being as an extremely limited number of Homer oil paintings have sold at recent auctions, the sale price of the painting can even exceed the upper $3 million end of the appraisal price. But no matter the end result, all funds from the auction — which will also include the sale of a library-owned bust of George Washington completed by 19th century sculptor Hiram Powers, appraised at from $150,000 to $250,000 — will be placed in a special "Library Heritage Fund," with strict limitations on its use.

Da Rold said the library plans to limit the fund usage to 5 percent or less annually, meaning the building will likely still be benefiting from the auction in 2028. Projects some of the fund are planned to be directed toward, Da Rold said, include completing renovations to the library's children's room, resurfacing staircases, exploring the possibility that the building can be partially operated by solar energy and even possibly building a two-story "technology tower" that would replace the 40-by-40 foot lower-level pool that occupies the atrium in the center of the building.

An agreement with Sotheby's will also result in the elimination of insurance costs for the library's Homer watercolor, Da Rold added. The auction house has also arranged the storing and insurance of "Looking Over the Cliff," and will present the library with a hand-painted reproduction of "Winding Line" to be displayed in the original frame.

The decision to sell, Da Rold concluded, though difficult, was the right move.

"The way I like to describe it is that we're really turning one asset into another," he said. "We had an asset in our cultural collection, and it's going to be a physical asset in improvements to the building."

Mark Spivey: 908-707-3144;

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.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Abbott Schools - Ledger - MacInnes: Court's Delusion

Published in the Star-Ledger, Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Supreme Court's Abbott delusion


The New Jersey Supreme Court dealt a crushing blow to Gov. Jon Corzine and the Legislature with its decision to re tain its own formula for funding poor school districts, at least for this year. The court's decision effectively kills the plan to improve educational opportunities for poor children who happen not to live in the 31 Abbott districts recognized by the court.

That the court invited the Abbott districts to seek more funding on top of the new school aid for mula -- despite a looming $5 billion deficit -- only accelerates New Jersey's collision with bankruptcy.

Perhaps most disturbing is the court's lack of any doubt about the so-called "remedies" that it ordered 10 years ago in an effort to close the achievement gap between poor and affluent children. It proceeds as if the 1998 court decision had finally solved a problem that has nagged the nation for four decades. The justices appear to think that if only the Abbott districts continue implementating [sic] these remedies and the administration and Legislature provide more funding, the goal of a "constitutional" education will be achieved.

One would hope that, after 35 years of litigation and the expenditure of billions of additional dollars, the court would show more curiosity about why poor kids in the Abbott districts do not perform better and why the gap persists. All branches of New Jersey's government should face some inescapable realities.

Abbott is supposed to be about inequities that constrict the educational opportunities of poor children residing in poor districts. Un happily, 50 percent of New Jersey's poor children reside outside the Abbott districts. Moreover, Abbott districts like Hoboken, Burlington City, Phillipsburg, Neptune Township, Pemberton and Garfield are much less disadvantaged than many non-Abbott districts.

The court expects New Jersey's poorest districts to accomplish something that has not been achieved anyplace, despite 40 years of programs, remedies, reforms and other panaceas. No district or state has succeeded in closing the educational gap between poor, predominantly minority students and affluent, predominantly white stu dents.

The primary reason these efforts have not succeeded is the failure of courts, advocates, bureaucrats and governors to define accurately and concretely the problem to be solved.

Children from poor families ar rive at kindergarten with too little general knowledge and vocabulary and too few ideas to start reading and writing in first grade. This is the gap that most districts never close. The court, to its credit, recognized this problem and ordered high-quality preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds in Abbott districts. "High quality" is what matters, and it takes time, focus, talent and persistence to bring it about in every preschool classroom. Despite the new formula tripling the number of districts that must provide preschool, the Corzine administration has reduced the staff that provides this crucial training.

The court-ordered remedies of 1998 reflected the latest in educational fashion. In particular, the justices ordered that every elementary school adopt a model of "whole school reform" based on the testimony and research of the designer and chief salesman of one such model. The problem was that none of the models was aligned to New Jersey's then-new curricular requirements, so that, even if those were perfectly implemented, Abbott students would continue to fail (and did).

Worse, the court cut out the district central office at just the time its leadership was essential to give coherence to the implementation of hundreds of new curricular standards. So everyone was focused on the wrong thing.

Abbott funding has helped districts like Elizabeth, Union City, Orange and Perth Amboy achieve dramatic improvements in student performance, while others have spent more money to no effect. The districts that have concentrated on early literacy and student achievement tend to spend less money than those that have faithfully implemented the court's "remedies."

Camden increased per student spending from $8,300 to $15,400 without any improvement in performance. Distinctions should be made between districts that are focused on improved achievement and those that are not. Instead, all districts have been encouraged by the court to seek more funding.

Courts can determine if funding for schools with concentrations of poor children is equitable, and they should. What courts cannot do is to require classroom instruction. The Abbott decisions overlook entirely that poor Latinos are the fastest- growing population in the Abbott and many other districts. How can jurists decide among several pedagogical approaches to educating students who speak no English and whose parents read no Spanish?

This is a pretty tough nut to crack, but the court felt no compunction about ordering solutions to all sorts of other pedagogical puzzles (to no consistently efficacious result). The court's latest decision was a chance to back out gracefully from such bravado by agreeing that, with all their shortcomings, local districts are better positioned to deal with the stu dents in their charge and should be given the responsibility to do so.

The overriding reality is that New Jersey and the nation are tapped out. No one is sure how deep or long this Great Recession will be. Other states have acted quickly to reduce spending. New Jersey's time will come, presumably. When it does, additional costs of hundreds of millions of dollars from a few school districts will not be welcome.

Gordon MacInnes was the assistant commissioner for Abbott districts at the state Education Department from 2002 to 2007. He is a lecturer at the Woodrow Wilson School and a fellow at the Century Foundation, which will publish his book on Abbott next month.

Online story here.

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(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.)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sub-prime Mortgages - Courier - Green's Bill: Safety net or disincentive?

Published in the Courier News, Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Subprime mortgage rescue fund: Safety net or disincentive?


TRENTON —A plan to create an estimated $40 million trust fund to help New Jersey residents who have subprime mortgages avoid losing their homes is instead creating a growing controversy.

Nonprofit housing groups are championing the New Jersey Homeownership Preservation Act as a safety net for homeowners struggling to pay mortgages they can no longer afford, but mortgage lenders are criticizing it as a costly, knee-jerk government reaction that will dissuade lending institutions from doing business in New Jersey.

"Not everybody is going to be able to renegotiate their mortgage and stay in their home. But we want to help as many people as we can," said Staci Berger, advocacy and policy director at the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, which supports the bill.

"The process being suggested is too costly and too onerous, and it could stop businesses from lending in New Jersey," cautioned E. Robert Levy, executive director of the Mortgage Bankers Association of New Jersey.

The bill is one of 19 economy-related measures that moved forward last week during the Assembly's much publicized session on the global financial crisis. The full Assembly could vote on the bill later this month.

It calls for the state to assess a $2,000 fee on any mortgage lender that forecloses on homeowners who have a subprime mortgage. The money collected would go into a trust fund run by the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, which would distribute it first to nonprofit groups qualified to counsel people facing foreclosure. Remaining money would provide homeowners facing foreclosure with emergency assistance loans and help buy and convert foreclosed homes into affordable housing.

The bill would also require lenders to offer homeowners with subprime mortgages a six-month hold to give them time to renegotiate their loans.

There were more than 134,000 subprime mortgages in New Jersey as of June 30, and 32.5 percent of them were in foreclosure or close to it, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association National Delinquency Survey.

The state's housing and mortgage agency estimates another 10,000 to 20,000 subprime loans will fall into these categories over the next two years if the situation continues unabated. It projects the trust fund would receive between $20 million and $40 million by 2010.

"I don't think the individuals who were trying to secure these loans thought that at some point they were going to lose their jobs to the degree that jobs have been lost, that the values of their homes were going to decrease to the point that they are less than the money that they owe," said Assembly Majority Leader Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-Mercer, before the Assembly Budget Committee last week.

Since March, Watson Coleman and Sen. Ronald Rice, D-Essex, have been leading the effort to get the bill approved in the Legislature and adopted into law. The lawmakers told the budget committee that many homeowners now facing hardship were preyed upon by unscrupulous lenders.

But Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon Jr., R-Monmouth, who opposes the bill, fears it would give mortgage companies, which are now facing their own problems in the credit market, another disincentive to lend to qualified New Jersey consumers.

The lending institutions could also pass the $2,000 state fee along to their customers, said Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose, R-Sussex, who criticized the program's estimated $675,000 in startup and staffing costs as too high for financially strapped New Jersey.

"For the amount of money this bill could generate, I think it has a lot of holes in it," McHose said.

SKEPTICS: For more criticisms of the bill from lawmakers, who wonder who'd benefit financially and who'd shoulder the load, visit the Gannett State Bureau's new Capitol Quickies blog at

Lisa G. Ryan:

Online story here. Archived 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.)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Unauthorized municipal expenditures - Record - Christie subpoenas Paramus records

Published in the Bergen Record, Monday, October 6, 2008

[Funds transferred without Council approval; Christie subpoenas]

Affordable housing funds shifted

Monday, October 6, 2008
Last updated: Monday October 6, 2008, EDT 6:43 AM

Paramus Mayor James Tedesco authorized the transfer of nearly $4 million in affordable housing funds without obtaining the Borough Council's approval, an apparent violation of affordable housing rules, public records show.

Council approval for borough expenditures is required under state guidelines, said Chris Donnelly, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.

Tedesco, a Democrat who became mayor in 2003, ordered the largest transfer — $3.6 million — from the affordable housing fund to the Paramus Affordable Housing Corp. in January 2004, according to municipal records. The rest of the money was allocated in three smaller transfers over several years.

Tedesco, who also is president of the non-profit PAHC, offered only a written statement conveyed through Keith Furlong, the borough's spokesman.

"If the borough did not adopt any specific resolutions, this was an oversight," Tedesco said.
His Republican predecessor, Cliff Gennarelli, ordered a similar transfer, but for a much smaller sum, $100,000. Gennarelli did not respond to requests for comment.

The U.S. Attorney's Office has served at least two subpoenas related to the borough's affordable housing program. The non-profit received one in August and the borough received one in July.

It is unclear what specifically drew federal attention.

Much of the overall $4 million transferred to PAHC eventually went to contractors, whose role in building affordable housing in Paramus is unclear.

The money eventually made its way to Paramus Affordable Development LP, a for-profit company that disbursed borough, county and state funds to contractors for a 46-unit project completed in 2005.

A significant portion of the project's funding — $3.6 million — came from the borough itself. Bergen County paid $900,000, and the state provided about $4.4 million.
The state guidelines also bar a mayor from formal involvement in releasing affordable housing funds, Donnelly said.

"The town council authorizes expenditures," he said. "The CFO would ultimately execute them."
The borough did not provide any council resolutions authorizing the transfers, despite several public records requests by The Record. Instead, it provided four resolutions that did not specifically authorize the transfers.
$3.6M mystery
Council members who served in 2004 also did not recall voting to release the $3.6 million. Former council members Sandra Gunderson, Joe D'Ambrozio and Connie Wagner, who is now an assemblywoman, said they did not remember allowing that sum for affordable housing.
"When it came to affordable housing, I saw virtually nothing," Gunderson said.

The current council president, Frank Ciambrone, also served on the council at the time. He did not respond to several calls for comment.

In a letter to Paramus Chief Financial Officer Joseph Citro on Jan. 6, 2004, Tedesco requested that $3.6 million be moved from the borough to the PAHC account "as per the agreement approved by Dennis J. Oury LLC."

Oury was Paramus' borough attorney in 2004. State records also list him as the registered agent for PAHC.

State records held by the Department of Community Affairs show that $3.6 million was transferred, but federal tax records show no record of $3.6 million coming into or going out of PAHC in 2004.

Tax law experts could not reconcile the contradiction. Victoria Bjorklund, former chairwoman of the IRS Advisory Committee on Tax Exemption, said that if the non-profit received $3.6 million — as state records indicate — then, by law, the money would have to appear on the tax form.
"All the contributions should be shown," she said. "It should show up at least on the balance sheet as funds that came in. If it came in and went out the same day, it should still show up."
Oury involvement 
Oury resigned as counsel for the Bergen County Democratic Organization last month after he and BCDO Chairman Joseph Ferriero were indicted by a federal grand jury on eight counts of fraud conspiracy not related to Paramus.

The indictment accuses them of using political influence to gain contracts for a consulting firm in which both had financial stakes. Oury's attorney, Gerald Krovatin, did not return calls for comment.

The accountant who handled PAHC's 2004 tax return, as well as the returns in 2003 and 2006, was William Katchen, according to the tax records. He, too, did not respond to several requests for comment.
46-unit project 
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development slapped Katchen with a one-year suspension from federal housing work in 1990 after the Passaic Housing Authority misspent $1.7 million in taxpayer money. He was the authority's accountant.

After money was released to PAHC, state records show it went into an escrow account held by the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency.

The mortgage agency then released the money to Paramus Affordable Development LP, the for-profit company that disbursed funding for the 46-unit project.

Eugene Walsh is president of Paramus Affordable Development LP, a company that shares an address with four of those contractors:
* Penwal Affordable Housing Corp. (non-profit): Walsh and Laury Pensa, directors.
* Canyon Capital Corp. (for profit): Pensa, president, incorporator, agent.
* Summit Capital Corp. (for profit): Pensa, president, incorporator, agent.
* Steamboat Corp. (for profit): Walsh, president; Pensa, agent and incorporator.
Steamboat received a $976,500 development fee from Paramus Affordable Development for a project with an $8.1 million budget, according to records provided by the state. Canyon received at least $44,000, and Summit took in at least $5,000.
Development fee 
In a financial disclosure form filed with the state's Housing Mortgage and Finance Agency, Walsh wrote that Penwal — which, according to its tax form, has "implemented and developed low-income housing projects in Dumont, Garfield, Jersey City and Paramus" — would get the development fee. He did not mention his interest in Steamboat on the form.

Other records obtained from the state mortgage agency show that the development fee went to Steamboat.

A financial disclosure form submitted to the state for Steamboat does not list Walsh or Pensa's interest in Penwal or Paramus Affordable Development LP. Pensa's signature appears on that financial disclosure statement.

In addition, a public records request submitted to HMFA by The Record showed that disclosure statements for Penwal and Canyon Capital were not filed with the agency.
Walsh and Pensa did not return calls about the payments.

Bergen County's United Way President Tom Toronto, who has experience with state-funded affordable housing projects, said development fees are a common cost of such projects. He also said any changes regarding development fees would have to be approved and recorded by HMFA.

"HMFA has to bless it each step of the way," he said. "Otherwise, the money wouldn't flow."


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Online story here.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Homicide - Courier - Monroe & West 3rd, number 3 for 2008

Published in the, Thursday, September 25, 2008

Man killed in Plainfield drive-by, police say

By MARK SPIVEY • STAFF WRITER • September 24, 2008

PLAINFIELD —A 31-year-old man was killed in a drive-by shooting in the city Wednesday night, Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig said.

Plainfield police responded to a report of shots fired near the intersection of Monroe Avenue and West Third Street around 9 p.m., where officers found the victim, a black male, Hellwig said.

The victim, whose town of residence was unclear, remained unidentified late Wednesday night pending notification of his family.

Officials from the Union County Prosecutor’s Office’s newly-formed Homicide Task Force, established just one week ago, were on the scene along with the Union County Sheriff’s Office officials. Investigators are following “numerous leads,” according to Hellwig.

The homicide was the city’s first in more than six months and its third of the year.


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.)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Muhlenberg - Courier - OpEd of Dr. Brian Fertig

Published in the Courier News, Sunday, September 7, 2008 [not on website until 9/09/2008]

Closure of Muhlenberg demonstrates deeper crisis

By Dr. BRIAN FERTIG • September 7, 2008

Health care nationwide is in a crisis of uncoiling despondency. Half of New Jersey's hospitals are financially in the red. Inadequate insurance coverage and dramatic cutbacks in state government funding, despite a rising charity-care requirement, explain the dilemma. Hospital inefficiency related to bed inoccupancy and lower quality of care with more prolonged and complicated illnesses requiring longer lengths of stay and increasing number of procedures amplifies the dilemma.

It is plausible to restrain government spending for inefficiency. However, desultory withdrawal of funding to some of the state's most efficient facilities is a senseless instigation to this health care calamity and geometrically rising costs; Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center is a paragon precedent to this point.

"We were rearranging the furniture on the slanting deck of the sinking Titanic," was quoted by the commissioner of health, who also referred to the hospital as a "sacrificial lamb."

Muhlenberg became the topic of escalating news coverage as it was being closed. It made the front page of The Washington Post on July 7. Daniel Schorr lamented the closing on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered." A heartwarming yet discriminatory documentary will undoubtedly be done on the historic nature of this institution based on its foundational stabilizing value as the city of Plainfield's largest employer and the elite ilk of standards and delivery of health care care throughout its 130 year existence.

"Done deal" from the start has never mattered; this fight needed to be fought and the story needs to be told.

A prevailing consensus of desolate presentiment daunted any effort to preserve the vitality of Muhlenberg's acute-care facility. Nevertheless, the gravamen of common sense, political correctness and reverence for the cost-efficient and highest quality of health care delivery (including the Reinholdt report) consummated a personal decision to embrace this battle. It appeared not only possible but easy to expose the sophistry for desecration to the sanctuary of health care, basic human rights and life.

Moreover, our New Jersey state elected officials, whose decision it was to withdraw state funding for hospital charity care, after all, embody a sympathetic cord for their multicultural underprivileged constituents. In fact, there were pre-emptive intentional, conspicuous measures to lead the bereaved public down a garden path of understanding and hope. Effusive emotion, sentimentality and factually incontestable well-articulated moral indignation failed to achieve any measure of moderate retrenchment by the Corzine administration. This became the defining watershed red flag for distrust.

Befitting a similitude to a hidden twist to the theme of a detective mystery, beguile and vulpine leadership became implicit, although the motives remain murky. The only explanation can be jockeying (e.g. for broader national-scale universal health care) or other even more villianous corruption.

It is a bewildering reality sometimes to have to think of our friends or elected safeguards as foes. Several tacitly credible reports have incriminated state governing officials of collusion and political blocking designed to disrupt and diffuse any focus capable of exposing an effective generator of outrage. One source points to stealthy manipulation of isolated executive individuals for the People's Organization for Progress. Another source supportive of the loyalty and virtue of the People's Organization cite threats from government officials to such individuals (who are state employees) if their level of advocacy for Muhlenberg persisted.

This may explain the fundamentally extraneous cynosure to Solaris Health Care Systems for the impending closure of Muhlenberg's acute-care operation. We need to remember that the state funding for charity care had been voluntarily taken away by the state government. Regardless of whether Solaris sees or even planned this as an opportunity to expand JFK Medical Center, it is curious that virtually no attention had been directed to the actual fundamental cause of the problem.

Framing the vital distinction of Muhlenberg's acute care provided the tangible opportunity to destabilize the accepted sophistry of the state's administration. The spurious reasoning that closing the acute care at Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center protects the financial interest of New Jersey taxpayers or ennobles fiscal responsibility is ridiculous and outrageous.

Muhlenberg has a record of scintillating efficiency and quality of care that irrefutably translated into cost savings. Repeated vacuous demonstrations directed by the People's Organization for Progress acclaimed only blank signs of "Save Muhlenberg." There had also been the conspicuous absence of worthy statewide media coverage.

It is retrospectively predictable for the state to grant the certificate of need filed by Solaris. The animus builds along with predictable prolonged legal courses of action between the sister hospitals of Solaris; this attention fulfills the function of political blocking. For Solaris to serve as a scapegoat for our state's administration, via state denial of a certificate of need, would only translate into a sooner realization that the New Jersey state government, and not Solaris, is the elemental problem to Muhlenberg's fallout. This would logically revivify the legs of Muhlenberg's supporters by directing their focus and goals.

The value of the New York Giants as a role model for champion teams must be epitomized. They have fought for Team Muhlenberg as they did for themselves. They even likened their achievement of the 2007-2008 greatest playoff and Super Bowl run in professional football history to the accomplishment that supporters of Muhlenberg pursue.

Tiki Barber, the "Mighty Mouse": He is relatively small, but found the holes that O'Hara, the front line and team created, to produce incredible statistics and outcome. The New York Giants consummated their world champion status after consecutively overcoming three redoubtable strongly favored and probably more talented opponents. Metaphorically, Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center epitomizes Mighty Mouse as a small Giant.

Built in 1877, a 400-bed hospital at its height, it has ranked No. 1 in the entire state of New Jersey (of almost 300 hospitals) and even in the top 10 percent in the country statistically for parameters of care. These include: infection rates in the intensive care unit; emergency cardiac angioplasty time; and neonatal morbidity. This efficiency of care results in decreased mechanical ventilation, transfusions, dialysis requirements, and so on, that underscore prolonged serious illness with an incommensurably high cost of delivering health care.

Champions know who they are. Fundamentals make team Muhlenberg a betting favorite. Getting knocked down can be disorienting; getting back up coupled to a cyclopean instinct of faith for the triumph of justice reorientates focus and innately the direction of the field of play. Muhlenberg's offensive game is poised for long gains, ball control and predictably a touchdown win and renaissance for the people it serves.

Both the certificate of need filed by Solaris Health Systems and the Reinhardt Report by the commissioner of health recognize and praised the outcome, quality and safety of Muhlenberg's patient care. This small community regional medical center that served the predominantly underprivileged and racial minorities of Plainfield outperformed the care of an overwhelming majority of larger medical centers in well-to-do areas.

The game plan for Muhlenberg at this point must be to illuminate Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center so brightly that it clearly exposes the sophistry of our governor's reasoning and decision-making to withdraw charity care funding to the hospital. Evidence-based medicine and statistical validation of the highly efficient delivery of care at Muhlenberg needs to be tangibly demonstrated. This can be done. Such a sophisticated analysis endeavor is the current challenge. The depth of this analysis, as already discussed with a leader in this area of econometrics, needs to be impervious to anticipated widespread scrutiny.

Dr. Brian Fertig is an endocrinologist living in Edison.

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.)

Monday, September 08, 2008

Armory - Courier - Bids on Armory start at $1M

Plainfield Armory going up for sale; bids start at $1M

Courier News, Thursday, June 30, 2005


Staff Writer

PLAINFIELD -- It was once considered a good location for a new senior citizen center and has been used as a place for martial arts classes, speeches and large-scale gatherings.

Now, the Plainfield Armory is for sale at a minimum bid of $1 million.

Assemblyman Jerry Green said the State House Commission decided last week to sell the property, recommending to the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs that it be auctioned off after it was declared a surplus building.

The commission is in charge of selling and leasing state-owned property.

Green, D-Plainfield, said it would be preferable for the city to retain control of the armory by purchasing it from the state. He said city officials, including Mayor Albert T. McWilliams, were sent a letter in April notifying them of the sale, but they never replied.

"By him or the council not responding, they (the state) decided last Monday to put the property out to bid," Green said.

McWilliams said he never received that letter -- a copy Green submitted showed it was dated April 27 -- but said the city might be interested in the armory. However, McWilliams added that the building needs a new air-conditioning system and other upgrades.

"There's a lot of work that has to go into the site, but it's a great location," he said.

A spokesman for the state Department of the Treasury, which manages state-owned properties, indicated there is at least one month for Plainfield to act.

"The property will be offered to state agencies and the municipality first, and if there is no interest expressed, it will be sold at an auction with a minimum bid of $1 million," spokesman Tom Vincz said Monday.

The statement Vincz read was part of a letter sent to McWilliams, dated June 22. In it, Gene Hayman, chief of the Office of Real Property Management at the Treasury, asks the city to contact him by July 29 if officials are interested.

If the city does nothing by then, the state will auction the armory to the highest bidder.

The building at the corner of Leland Avenue and East Seventh Street is about 18,000 square feet, and when it was considered as a possible new senior center site six or seven years ago, it contained mostly small offices and narrow corridors. The tight spaces and lack of handicap-accessible features made seniors hesitant about relocating there.

Vincz said the older building is a candidate for the state and national Register of Historic Places, meaning there would be restrictions on alterations and uses by any potential buyer.

"In other words, you can't knock the building down," Vincz said.

Green noted that armories such as the one in Red Bank -- which became an ice rink -- have been converted for public use, which is what he would like to see in Plainfield.

"It's a lot of options out there. I have staff doing research now how other municipalities have responded to this," he said."

Armory - Ledger - State puts Armory up for sale

State puts Plainfield armory up for sale

Friday, June 24, 2005

Star-Ledger Staff

The Plainfield armory is up for sale with a price tag of a million dollars, officials said.

The state-owned building will be offered to state agencies and the city first, said Tom Vincz, a spokesperson at the state Treasury Department, which is overseeing the sale. It could not be determined exactly when the property will be put on the market.

The armory was closed in the early 1990s because it was underutilized. But instead of selling the space, the state rented it to veterans groups.

Recently, the Military and Veterans Affairs Agency requested the armory be designated as surplus, prompting the sale. On Monday, the State House Commission approved the sale.

Plainfield Mayor Albert McWilliams said the city might be interested in the property if the price is right. But the building needs "hundreds of thousands" of dollars for a cooling system and to make it handicapped accessible, he said.

"If we had the money to do the upgrades, it would be a great community center for the city," he said. "We would have to look at the details."

Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-Union) has worked with the state to make sure the city has first dibs.

"I think the city should control a valuable piece of property," he said.

The armory is eligible for the state and national registers of historic sites, said Vincz, meaning the building cannot be torn down.

Julia Scott cover Plainfield. She may be reached at (908) 302-1505 or

Armory - Courier - Task force considers Armory

Courier News, Sunday, July 10, 2005


Plainfield eyes deal for armory

PLAINFIELD -- A task force has begun meeting to consider the possible acquisition of the Plainfield Armory by the city.

Mayor Albert T. McWilliams announced the establishment of the group earlier this week, and the task force met for the first time Wednesday night, he said.

The nine-member panel, chaired by resident Michael Pyne, an AT&T executive who has been active in several other city groups, will consider possible uses for the property and the feasibility of acquiring the armory, from finances to development.

A public hearing may be scheduled to gather community input.

The state announced in late June that it had declared the armory, at the corner of Leland Avenue and East Seventh Street, a surplus property and would sell it at auction with a starting bid of $1 million.

-- Chad Weihrauch

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Muhlenberg - Courier - Green airs differences with Solaris

Published in the Courier News, Thursday, September 4, 2008

Plainfield, Solaris air differences at Muhlenberg meeting


The State Department of Health and Senior Services is attempting to mediate a series of disputes between the city of Plainfield and Solaris, Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center's parent company, regarding the recent closure of the 131-year-old hospital.

Department of Health and Senior Services Commissioner Heather Howard met with Assemblyman Jerry Green, D-Union, and officials from Plainfield and Solaris in Trenton on Wednesday in a session that lasted nearly three hours — the talks revolving around disagreements regarding some of the 18 conditions outlined by Howard in a written decision released in late July approving Solaris' certificate of need to close the hospital.

"They got to discuss a variety of concerns centering around the (certificate of need)," said department spokeswoman Donna Leusner, "And she (Howard) is working with both parties to resolve the issues."

Those issues include a dispute over the adequacy of schedules for transportation to other medical facilities supplied by Solaris to city residents, plus the lack of a "watchdog" entity to ensure the conditions for closure continue to be met by the company, two topics that, according to Green, dominated the meeting. The assemblyman said he believed that without tangible amendments to the original approval of the certificate of need, the city would lean toward filing a formal appeal of Howard's decision, the deadline for which Green said is next week.

"I would say right now that I'm more inclined (to believe an appeal is pending), because there's so much mistrust there. I would say unless the commissioner makes these adjustments, there's a good opportunity that the city would appeal," Green said. "If she doesn't render a decision in a favorable way, there's going to be a problem, but I want to give her the benefit of the doubt first."

Leusner said her department was aware of the possibility for such an appeal. Yesterday's meeting was the second in three weeks to include the commissioner, Green, and Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs in discussing the hospital, which city officials have said was vital to the community. Solaris has cited massive financial struggles stemming from low patient volumes, high rates of charity-care patients, and continuing state and federal reimbursement cuts for such patients as reasons for closing the hospital, the annual losses for which officials have said were approaching $20 million.

Solaris spokesman Steven Weiss characterized yesterday's meeting as being positive, expressing optimism that its eventual outcome could prove agreeable to both his company and the Plainfield community.

"The meeting itself was really a beneficial and healthy dialogue between the interested parties," Weiss said. "They're (the Department of Health) going to look at what can be done to look at some of the conditions to see if they can simplify some of them to make them more beneficial to the community."

Weiss said yesterday's meeting also touched on the hot-button issue of the possible sale of the hospital or parts of the hospital grounds. Green and others have accused Solaris of being uncooperative with prospective buyers, but Weiss said his company explained during the meeting that such transactions are complicated.

"We were clarifying the parameters that our investment bankers use for the sale," Weiss said. "There are a lot of specifics when it comes from turning a nonprofit (facility) into a for-profit."

Weiss added that Solaris remains willing to listen to any offers for parts of the 17-acre campus. Green has said he knows of no fewer than four interested parties.

"We remain open to being approached," Weiss said.

Yesterday's meeting originally set up as a showdown between Green and Solaris over the possible approval by the state of nearly $170 million in bonds for the financially distressed health-care company, funds that the assemblyman last week said he hoped to get the state to defer pending the city's grievances being addressed.

Green softened his stance slightly yesterday, saying Solaris officials spent part of the meeting emphasizing the fact that the denial of the bonds in question could spell financial disaster. The matter was originally due to come before the New Jersey Health Care Facilities Financing Authority on Aug. 28, but was postponed, although the case now appears on the authority's Web site under a list of pending business with a decision date yet to be set.

"They were pleading their case, and they made it very clear that without financing in place, all the things we're talking about, including employees, (could be in jeopardy)," Green said. "Without that revenue needed for Solaris to get in good financial shape, then it could be a crisis for them. That's why it's important it should be give-and-take on both sides — they have financial concerns, we have health concerns."

Mark Spivey can be reached at or 908-707-3144.

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.)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Immigrants - Courier - Connolly Properties: LAC engages lawyers

Published in the Courier News, Sunday, August 31, 2008

Plainfield Hispanic-rights group hires lawyers in immigration suit


The Latin American Coalition, a city Hispanic-rights group, has retained attorneys from a prominent New York City-based civil-rights organization in response to a federal lawsuit that has the potential to turn the city into the epicenter of the national debate concerning illegal immigration.

The coalition retained the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, which will work pro bono in opposing the Washington, D.C.,-based Immigration Reform Law Institute, the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. The institute previously supported anti-illegal immigration ordinances in Riverside and Hazelton, Pa., but both towns were ultimately forced to abandon them. The Defense and Education Fund played a pivotal role in one of those cases, when U.S. District Judge James M. Munley overturned the Hazelton ordinance by ruling it unconstitutional, and Riverside rescinded its ordinance when township officials said the town could not afford the legal costs of defending it.

The lawsuit was filed in June against defendants with Connolly Properties, a locally based real-estate investment and management company that oversees apartments here and in East Orange and Allentown, Pa. The plaintiffs in the case are Maribel DelRio-Mocci, a former leasing agent for Connolly, and two current tenants of Plainfield Connolly Properties, Linda Elliot and Robert Bolmer, who allege that the real-estate group has run and continues to run a scheme to lease rental units to undocumented residents. The plaintiffs contend this is done "through a pattern of encouraging and inducing illegal aliens to reside in the United States and harboring those aliens from official detection in knowing and/or reckless disregard of the fact that such aliens were present in the United States in violation of federal law," according to the language of the suit. Connolly, an official for which declined comment for this story, has until Sept. 15 to file a formal response with the U.S. District Court of New Jersey in Newark.

Setting legal precedent?

The lawsuit is unique in that it ranks among the first ever to cite RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) statutes, which the federal government has traditionally used mostly to fight organized crime, in order to declare Connolly as being tantamount to a criminal-harboring enterprise. The lawsuit also alleges multiple violations of the Fair Housing Act, claiming that Connolly agents deliberately segregate tenants by race and nation of origin in order to reduce the risk of illegal aliens being discovered by authorities.

Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund Executive Director Cesar Perales said the potential ramifications regarding the outcome of the suit are enormous.

"The civil rights implications are very clear, and they go well beyond Plainfield," Perales said. "If this concept that anyone who rents to undocumented people is harboring (criminals) ... and violating federal law, this is going to affect landlords and immigrants all over this country."

Immigration Reform Law Institute Staff Attorney Garrett Roe would not comment extensively on the specifics of the case but agreed that a powerful precedent could be set by its outcome.

"The ideal situation," Roe said, "is that small towns around the country that are dealing with the same problem (of illegal immigration), hopefully they're going to see this,and it will help them deal with such issues."

Along with RICO and Fair Housing Act violations, the lawsuit claims that illegal aliens were "encouraged or allowed to use false identity documents" by Connolly when applying for housing, along with claims that such tenants were not subject to the same maximum occupancy restrictions to which legal citizens were subject. The suit also claims that some legal citizens were falsely informed that no vacancies were available in certain buildings and goes on to cite substandard living conditions existing at some Connolly properties, specifically Plainfield's Central Avenue and Pingry Arms Apartment Complexes.

Tenants say conditions are bad

Two tenants with 25 years of combined residence at Pingry Arms independently claimed some of the allegations in the lawsuit are true, specifically echoing assertions that the demographics have changed and the conditions have deteriorated at the building rapidly since Connolly acquired the property almost directly across from City Hall on Crescent Avenue several years ago.

"They've (Connolly) been getting away with murder," said Troy Moyd, 68, and a resident at Pingry since 1995. "Since they got this place in the last four or five years, the place has been going downhill ever since. They don't believe in fixing anything."

Moyd cited water leaks in his bathroom and ceiling, mouse and roach infestations, and other factors, closely mirroring claims from Bolmer outlined in the lawsuit. Another tenant, who asked only to be identified by his first name, Roger, cited drug dealing and urination in the hallways.

Both men also said they believe Connolly is guilty of deliberately mistreating non-Hispanic tenants in order to homogenize the building by driving other tenants out, even claiming that some phone calls made for maintenance are answered by company employees who claim not to speak English.

However, Clarence McGhie, a retiree who lives in a Central Avenue residence just steps away from the Central Avenue Apartments, said he is not aware of any adverse effects to his neighborhood caused by the nearby Connolly property.

"We're talking about a complex that's maybe one-fifth of a mile from my house, and it's not like I'm ever looking over my shoulder to see who's coming and going," McGhie said. "I've lived here for almost three years and had no problems at all."

McGhie said he isn't sure just what to make of the lawsuit but said he did believe many area immigrants — legal or otherwise — are only looking to improve their lives.

"I don't think it's a black-and-white issue or yes-and-no issue," McGhie said. "But a lot seem to be hard workers who may not be getting a fair deal."

Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs said while she is unaware of the specifics of the lawsuit, she will be keeping an eye on how it unfolds due to its potential to affect the city at large.

"My position, and the position of the city of Plainfield, is that we advocate equal rights for everyone and fair treatment of everyone, regardless of anyone's nationality or ethnic background," Robinson-Briggs said when asked what the city's policy on illegal immigration was. "And we are looking for any and all companies in Plainfield to be fair and equitable to all members of the community."

Company experiences huge growth

The lawsuit further alleges that Connolly was able to achieve much of its financial success — it cites the company as going from overseeing one six-unit building to operating nearly 2,000 units in 45 separate complexes during a 12-year span — due to the existence of the alleged scheme. The plaintiffs contend that Connolly "has been able to acquire extensive real-estate holdings in old and dilapidated apartment buildings, and to operate such holdings as a residential rental enterprise without investing funds correcting the ... dangerous conditions therein."

Connolly oversees at least 27 separate housing entities in Plainfield alone, according to the company's Web site, the vast majority of which are bunched in a narrow corridor spanning Seventh and Ninth streets between Spooner and Richmond avenues. The site includes photos of all 27 properties, advertising rental units ranging from one to three bedrooms and ranging in size from under 350 square feet to more than 1,500 square feet. The site also says Connolly was formed in 1996 "with the intention of making real-estate investment and ownership available to investors who may possess little or no expertise and may have limited capital for investment."

Carl Reed, broker owner for one of the city's most successful property-management firms, ERA Realty on Park Avenue, said he believes Connolly is anything but a criminal enterprise.

"I happen to know the quality of the property he (owner David Connolly) runs and manages, and they are in the top percentage of the properties in this city. He is by no means a slumlord," Reed said. "I would be honored to own some of the properties he owns; he's actually raised the real-estate values in Plainfield. And I believe most of the landlords in town feel the same way."

Reed went on to label the lawsuit as unfairly targeting one property-management company that only is mirroring what countless others do every day.

"I don't know why Connolly was singled out when a majority of landlords in this town probably have a similar situation (in renting to undocumented residents)," Reed said. "In a town that is struggling in an economic downturn, with a population that is such a melting pot, it's unfortunate."

Not all city real-estate officials echoed Reed's words, though. Jeannette Edghill, senior housing administrator for the Plainfield branch of Covenant Manor, a senior citizen apartment complex on East Front Street, said she believes Connolly properties within a block of her building are hotbeds for crime.

"I've had some question marks in my mind about this whole Connolly thing; all of a sudden they're owning all the realty in Plainfield," Edghill said. "Right across the street, there's a lot of drug-dealing going on in there. It's just constant crime."

Flor Gonzalez, director of the Latin American Coalition, said she believes the lawsuit threatens not only tenants of Connolly properties but the city's entire Latino community.

"If this lawsuit is successful, it will result in Latinos being denied the opportunity to obtain housing. It will make many landlords reluctant to rent to Latino tenants ... and have a chilling effect on all landlords," Gonzalez said. "We intend to defend our rights."

Gonzalez also said, in spite of being on the defensive, she was eager to embrace an opportunity to make a statement concerning Hispanic rights that could resound around the country.

"It's time for us to really try and make history," Gonzalez said, "to not allow this to go forward."

Mark Spivey can be reached at 908-707-3144 or

Online story here. Archived 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.)

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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.