PLAINFIELD, NJ - A $2.2 million bond issue for a pedestrian mall by Plainfield’s main train station brought a raft of questions from city resident Mary Burgwinkle at Monday’s City Council meeting.
Burgwinkle said she counted cars on the proposed site twice in January, finding 55 one day and 55 another. The plan calls for closing North Avenue between Park and Watchung avenues to traffic.
“I have no idea where all these cars will go,” she said.
She said more policing might be needed and may take police away from other parts of the city.
Burgwinkle also questioned how Public Works would maintain landscaping at the site, noting “There are 30,000 trees in Plainfield” that also need care. She also questioned how residents of the block would lug heavy groceries from remote parking, and how Amazon would make deliveries to the closed street
Economic Development Director Valerie Jackson defended the plan, saying “more eyes on the street” will make it safer. Employees who park in a nearby lot will be encouraged to park elsewhere to make way for customers. Citing “placemaking,” she said a “first-class restaurant” and a banquet hall will be opening close by on Park Avenue, and she hoped “best practices” would be employed to make the most of the site.
Councilwoman Ashley Davis also asked about parking and called for an audit of permits issued over the years.
When Councilman Elton Armady asked about drop-offs and pick-ups at the train station, Jackson said those could be done on the Depot Park side of the train station.
“We are only changing North Avenue, we are not changing all around the train station,” she said.
Councilman Sean McKenna suggested the $2.2 million might be needed for other purposes if the economy takes a dip.
The bond ordinance passed, 5-2, with Davis and McKenna voting “no” and Armady, Charles McRae, Joylette Mills-Ransome, Council President Steve Hockaday and Barry Goode voting “yes.”
Two men formerly enrolled in the Cisco Certification training program spoke in favor of two new resolutions to fund training, one for $28,500 and another for $32,750.
Kyle Brown said he attended the previous Cisco program, but cited “a lot of problems” with instructors. He said it was “equipped for children,” not adults. He said he reached out to city officials without success, and alleged one teacher was “watching porn all day.”
He and others ended up “teaching ourselves,” he said.
Hockaday called the allegation “quite disturbing” and asked Brown to speak with him after the meeting.
Former Cisco student Darrell Booker thanked the city for providing the program, but said what was lacking was “commitment of the faculty.”
He said he was committed to finish the program, adding, “I want to make it happen.”
Only one of 15 students passed the course.
McKenna said he wanted metrics before the city spent $60,000 more.
Communications and Technology Director Jazz Clayton-Hunt mentioned some improvements in the program, but McKenna was not satisfied. Mills-Ransome, a retired school administrator, expressed concern about the teachers, as did Davis.
“We are holding instructors more accountable,” Clayton-Hunt said.
The resolution to approve $28,500 passed, 6-1, with McKenna voting “no.” The second one, for $32,750 for Cisco training at Union County College’s Plainfield campus, passed 5-2, with Davis and McKenna voting “no.”
Davis, wearing a T-shirt that read, “I Am Black Excellence,” had presented two resolutions at the beginning of the meeting, one congratulating Walter W. Young III on being awarded the U.S. Air Force 2020 Chief of Staff Private Pilot Scholarship and another recognizing Mount Olive Baptist Church as the first Black church in the City of Plainfield and congratulating them on 150 years of service. The resolutions brought out a crowd of well-wishers, many of whom stayed on through the entire meeting.
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