PLAINFIELD, NJ - Autumn rain did not deter residents from having their say Tuesday on Plainfield’s future, what they love about the city and what they want for it.

“This is all about you,” Planning Director Bill Nierstedt told about 40 attendees, explaining the need for a new master plan. “You have lots of time to give us your input.”

The master plan governs future land use, development, housing, transportation, sustainability, parks and other important topics and must be updated every ten years. Input from residents in person and online is being gathered and will lead to Planning Board acceptance of a new master plan by June 2020. The next two workshops are Nov. 14, 1st Ward at Emerson School and Dec. 13, 3rd Ward at Washington School, both from 6 to 8 p.m. Results of the Oct. 8 4th Ward workshop at Clinton School are already posted on plainfieldnj.gov at the Master Plan link and Tuesday’s results for the 2nd Ward at Cook School will soon be up.

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Facilitators Tuesday included Nierstedt, Gerard M. Haizel of Nishuane Group and Jeff Janota and Nicole Venezia of H2M.

Venezia said residents can also comment or ask questions by going to Plainfield@publicinput.com

“This project is so big that it deserves its own website,” she said.

Among things residents love about Plainfield, “diversity” was posted on an easel four times, but despite a burgeoning Latino population, only activist Carmen Salavarrietta of Angels For Action was there Tuesday to represent their number. Between 2000 and 2010, the Latino population grew by 67 percent, to 40.4 percent, and Salavarietta thinks the 2020 census will show another increase.

“People feel that they are not important, so they don’t think it’s important to come to these meetings,” she said, but added, “It’s really important for them to participate.”

The city website has all the master plan information in Spanish as well as English. Salavarrietta vowed to “use whatever is necessary to get everybody information” on both the master plan and the census, which will play a role in getting funding for future projects.

The city has held celebrations and flag-raisings for numerous countries of origin for city residents, all of whom are encouraged to take part in the master plan process and the census. Salavarrietta said she intends to reach out to Latinos through churches, including one that has 6,000 Spanish-speaking members, to stress the importance of participation in both.

“I think it’s going to make a difference,” she said.

After residents made the rounds of four stations for input, resident Stacey Taylor said, “I think we were heard.”

She thought postcards or a newsletter might help get information to more residents, in addition to the online outreach. Among her concerns were low-income housing and more local businesses.

As the crowd dispersed, Haizel said, “This went very well.”

He said he was pleased at the turnout, despite the rain, and noted the residents’ enthusiasm about the future of their city.

“From a planning perspective,” he said, “it’s as good as you can ever hope for.”

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