PLAINFIELD, NJ - As the year comes to a close, TAPinto Plainfield caught up with Plainfield Mayor Adrian O. Mapp, to talk about unfinished business for this year, and to learn about initiatives for 2019.
How would you reflect back on 2018? And what are your administration's initiatives for the new year?
"The end of the year, quite naturally, is always a good time to reflect on the past year, and decide what's worked and what didn't, and make some choices on what we can do better in the coming year," Mapp began.
"I would say that our goal is to always to do better. Do more with less, provide more resources and services to our residents," in a cost-effective manner, he said.
"We are attuned, I would say, to the challenges faced by many in our city, and we are always working with community partners to identify those who need support. That's critically important, and so ultimately we want everyone in our city to be self-sufficient, but until then, we want to alleviate inequality wherever it exists."
Looking towards the new year, the mayor stated there will be a series of events to celebrate both the city's sesquicentennial, or 150th birthday, and Plainfield City Hall's 100th anniversary. The kick-off will take place on January 5, 2019, from 12 to 3 p.m.
"In addition to the ongoing pursuit of development and growth in the city, we have a committee involved in planning many celebratory and educational events for the city throughout the year. It's going to be an exciting year for Plainfield, and I am elated to be the Mayor at this very important time."
Although subject to change, currently there are plans for one event per month.
Where do you see the state of education in the city?
"As you know, I have a passion for education. As I have so often stated in different presentations and writings, education is the vehicle that has transported me to my present station in life. And so because I am so driven by a desire to see our education system transformed in a way that will benefit the students of Plainfield, I am extremely saddened by the current state of affairs."
He said that he will not stand on the sidelines, and will do everything in his power to continue to support Board of Education candidates during election season who he believes have a desire to transform Plainfield's educational system in a way that leads to better outcomes for students.
Mapp is interested in partnerships with the school district, but stressed that the City of Plainfield and the Board of Education are two separate entities. He cited some current cooperative efforts, including one where high schoolers are invited to City Hall to shadow department and division heads, as well as the 'Mayor for a Day' program. There is also a mentoring program with members of the Plainfield Police Division.
We asked the Mayor about Plainfield Promise. It is his initiative to ensure that every graduating high school student is able to go to college or a trade school, and would allow for savings accounts for first grade students to provide a head start on saving for higher education.
"The Plainfield Promise is certainly a very important project," Mapp said, and noted that his administration continues to work on it. Despite naysers, he added, "the Plainfield Promise is going to be transformative for our young people, so I would say, stay tuned."
"We continue to seek ways to make sure there is a fund there to provide for our students."
In an interview with TAPinto Plainfield in June, Mapp said 200 Plainfield Avenue Urban Renewal had made a $50,000 donation to the fund.
Could you give us an update on economic development across the city?
Mapp said the renaissance period that the city is in will be expanded. "I have every confidence, I must tell you, that the growth that we have been experiencing in our city is sustainable, and represents a significant turning point in the resurgence of Plainfield."
He continued, saying, "Plainfield is well on its way to regaining its place as a focal city in the state of New Jersey. It is evidence of the confidence and the respect that people and businesses around the state have for our community. So we are now in a position to be able to choose our investment partners; we don't settle," and said his administration can be selective.
A mixed-use development proposal for apartments, stores, and a restaurant on the north side of Netherwood Train Station, across from Seidler Field, that had been approved by the Planning Board in August 2017 will come to fruition in the spring of 2019, the Mayor said.
There is half a billion dollars in the private investment pipeline, according to Mapp.
"I am extremely proud of the progress that we've made, and what we have in store to unveil to the residents as we turn the clocks in December into 2019."
Mapp remarked, "We are attracting people to our city," and he added that there is large amount of enthusiasm for the apartments that are being built, in addition to homes in town.
"There is a great interest in the new housing units. So those who are saying we have too many apartment units? They don't know what they're talking about, quite frankly, because the evidence that we have says something completely different."
"It's not just about apartments. It's about mixed-use commercial space, and I am confident that, like other cities, we are on the right track."
Mapp also said they are actively pursuing a one-seat ride for New Jersey Transit service into New York City during peak commuting hours. A direct line would increase property values, for one thing, he noted. Members of the Raritan Valley Line Mayors Alliance, a group made up mayors representing 23 communities, met with lawmakers at the League of Municipalities in November to further discuss the issue.
The City of Plainfield recently held a Marijuana Town Hall. What are the next steps?
Mapp said the town hall was well received, and it provided supportive feedback. He added the administration is planning to hold another public forum in the new year, and will also meet with many businesses.
"Like it or not, legislation is coming, and we are going to be prepared to act."
(Late November, a bill to expand access to medical marijuana was advanced by New Jersey's Assembly Democrats.)
The survey link to provide feedback to the Plainfield administration is still active. Weigh in here.
What are the biggest challenges facing your administration, and how do you plan to address them?
"Resources, resources, and resources!" A lack of necessary resources are always a challenge, according to Mapp.
"Rebuilding our infrastructure, repaving all of our roads, transforming recreational spaces, and creating a state-of-the-art recreational complex in the 4th Ward, as well as a recreational and educational cultural complex at Hannah Atkins. These are some of the things that we want to do."
Mapp said his administration is working with the state and other partners to overcome some of the challenges in obtaining much needed resources.
Finally, Mapp noted that video of City Council meetings are now available to the public, and applauded the work of Municipal Clerk Abubakar “AJ” Jalloh. Beginning with the Oct. 9 meeting, residents can easily access video here.
"We are continuing to enhance our ability to be transparent, and we are looking for ways, each and every day, to make sure that this administration is as transparent as we can be."
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