PLAINFIELD, NJ — Plainfield’s City Council members kicked off Monday's meeting welcoming Abby Levenson as Acting Business Administrator. A presentation on the new report it® platform followed; the program allows residents the ability to file a report on issues around town that fall under Communications, Inspections, Zoning, Public Works, Animal Control, and Police for disabled or abandoned vehicles.
Levenson, who is the current Human Resources Director, replaces Abubakar T. Jalloh, who has been serving in that capacity since March 2019.
Director of Communications Jazz Clayton-Hunt presented an overview of the report it® platform that launched Monday, and noted it can be downloaded from the App store; residents can also click on the button on the left side of the city’s website, or visit www.reportit.com. Photos and videos can be uploaded. Reports will be forwarded to both the communications department, and the appropriate division.
Suggestions to make residents more aware of the new program included the placement of information on the launch of report it® in the Mayor’s newsletter, and robocall usage.
MC 2020-14, an ordinance to adopt a redevelopment plan for the scattered city-owned parking lots passed 5-2, with Councilors Ashley Davis and Sean McKenna voting no.
McKenna also voted no on an ordinance (MC 2020-15) to adopt a redevelopment plan for the South Avenue Corridor, as well as an ordinance (MC 2020-16) to adopt the TODD-West Redevelopment plan.
Condolences were offered via resolution for family and friends on the loss of Frank D’Aversa last week. Councilwoman Davis said, “Mr. Diversa was a great First Ward resident who did a lot for the First Ward, for the Plainfield Democratic City Committee. He was never afraid to speak truth to power or to call us to the carpet when he thought we were out of order. And I hope that other residents follow in his spirit of saying what he felt, especially when he felt it was right and it was necessary.”
There was a unanimous decision for resolution R 233-20 designating the plaza in front of City Hall as “Black Lives Matter Plaza.”
Councilwoman Davis said, “So while I fully support this resolution and I appreciate the symbolic gestures that the city has taken to show its agreement and affirmation that Black lives, in fact, matter, I think we're at a critical juncture to show that Black Lives Matter through action and through deed. It is important that cities like ours set the tone and be the model of what it looks like when Black lives, in fact, matter. This is not just about the here and now, but it's about the future.”
She continued, “We all have a role to play in creating a legacy that lives long past our times and public service. Everyone has a part to play in this; as council members, we should be leading the charge and creating legislation and championing resolutions that work to dismantle systemic racism. Every department in our city has a role to play as well. For example, our Public Works Department can assure that your ZIP code doesn't determine the quality of your neighborhood's infrastructure. Our police can assure enforcement it is fair and equitable. Communications can ensure that images and correspondence from the city represents the diversity we all love in Plainfield, and looks like all of our neighborhoods. Even our Finance Department can ensure that the companies we do business with represent the values that we hold so important in this community. They can work to ensure that we're not putting more money in pockets of companies that support other people or causes that benefit from the same systemic issues that we're seeking to change."
Davis finished, saying, "Fannie Lou Hammer once said that 'no one is free until we are all free,' so in this renaming of City Hall Plaza and the painting of Black Lives Matter in our streets, let's also work together to develop policies and ordinances that improve the lives of our most marginalized and disenfranchised residents because Plainfield isn’t One Plainfield until all of its residents can believe collectively in its bright future."
Additional resolutions included a contract award to GovPayNet (R 234-20) which will provide online payment services at no cost to the city, with a convenience fee to be paid by customers.
McKenna was the lone ‘no’ vote to designate 1369 South Plainfield Urban Renewal, LLC, as the developer for a mixed-use multi-family property at 1369-1403 South Avenue; the location is next door to Dairy Queen.
Davis, meanwhile, was the only one to vote no on resolution R 244-20 that designates 925-927 South Second Street, 921-923 South Second Street, and 929-935 South Second Street as a non-condemnation redevelopment area, and includes the old Second Street Youth Center.
Councilman Barry Goode questioned why resolution R 245-20 for 611 Front Street was listed on the agenda under the Department of Health & Human Services. Corporation Counsel David Minchello said Director Valerie Jackson had a previous work relationship with the developer that might present a conflict of interest. The lots in question are related to a redevelopment plan for the Marino Tract that was previously approved and adopted in July 2000.
Ordinance MC 2020-18, introduced on first reading, raised questions about a PILOT agreement with 803 South Avenue Urban Renewal, LLC, for a five-story building with first floor commercial space at 757-819 South Avenue, and 104 residential units.
Director Jackson said, “Based on existing taxes, the city would get nine hundred and seventy-one thousand dollars in taxes. Almost a million dollars over 30 years. But based on this PILOT, the city would get over that same period eleven million dollars and some change.”
When the question arose about the impact the development could have on schools, Mayor Adrian O. Mapp said, “The cost of blight is way greater than the number of dollars that will not go to our school district. And additionally, when you compare that with the overall significantly more dollars that will be coming into the city as a result of development, the choice is do you want to retain blight? Or do you want to develop and enhance the bottom line of the city and make the city more inviting than it otherwise would be? So those are factors that we also look at when coming to a decision as to whether or not to let what is remain in place, or to remove blight in favor of development."
In the end, the ordinance was unanimously adopted on first reading.
Resident Timothy Priano appealed to the council for help to find a suitable location to store shelf stable food and fresh fruits and vegetables weekly for a food drive, now heading into its fifteenth week, to help residents affected by COVID-19. To date, duCret School of Art has been the place to prep, pack and distribute food. The Plainfield Salvation Army is another distribution site.
So far, volunteers have helped distribute 10,551 boxes to 7,938 households, 31,528 individuals, and 1,041 Seniors.
The Council is scheduled to meet next on Tuesday, September 8.
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