Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Captain El-Amin Retires

Flashing lights and sirens Wednesday highlighted a traditional farewell for police retirees, but this time the event was unique.

A crowd of about 50 officers and well-wishers gathered to await Captain Siddeeq El-Amin's exit from police headquarters. One of three captains faced with demotion to lieutenant for budgetary reasons, El-Amin decided to forego a planned terminal leave and go out as a captain rather than take the demotion.

Plaintalker reported on El-Amin's decision earlier this year and recounted highlights of his 30 years with the Plainfield Police Division.

As people applauded and recorded the event, El-Amin began a round of farewell handshakes and hugs with Emergency Management official Sheldon Green.
Captain Ruth Selzam, one of three who will remain at that rank, gets a big hug as Captain Steven Soltys looks on. Soltys and Captain Edward Santiago (the division's last police chief before the title was abolished) are the other two remaining captains.

Daughter Mahasin, who is a police officer, embraces her dad as granddaughter Imani looks on.
Faheemah El-Amin, a former City Council member, poses for the cameras with her husband.

Daughter Bayyinah records the ceremony for family memories.

Asked whether he will be doing teaching, consulting or other law-enforcement related activities in retirement, El-Amin said, "All of the above." He is also on the board of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE).

Imani strikes a pose - is she thinking of following the family footsteps into law enforcement?
All the best to Captain El-Amin and his family and thanks for all their service to the City of Plainfield.
--Bernice Paglia

BOE Candidate Forum Today

The Plainfield Education Association is holding a candidates' forum today from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Plainfield High School student cafeteria.

The field of candidates for three three-year terms includes three incumbents, Wilma Campbell, Martin Cox and Christian Estevez, and challengers Rasheed Abdul-Haqq, Mary Burgwinkle, Jaclynne Callands, Catherine Crittendon, Danielle Fletcher, Mahogany Hendricks and Renata Hernandez.

There is also an unexpired term caused by the departure of former board president Bridget Rivers to serve on the City Council. Candidates for the unexpired term are Keisha Edwards, Carmencita Pile, Denise Riley and Clayton Tucker Sr.

Although a dozen candidates have organized into three slates of four members each, Plaintalker urges voters to take a look at all 14 candidates as individuals first and pick the four people whom you feel will do the best job.

The three teams are Abdul-Haqq, Campbell, Hernandez and Edwards; Burgwinkle, Cox, Estevez and Pile; and Callands, Fletcher, Hendricks and Tucker. Crittendon and Riley are not on slates.

--Bernice Paglia

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Free Easter Dinner

Anyone who may be alone on Easter or who might need an Easter dinner is welcome to visit First Unitarian Society of Plainfield at 724 Park Avenue on Sunday, April 4 between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Volunteers will be providing all the ingredients for a traditional dinner. I will most likely be continuing my service in the kitchen.

To learn more about the church, visit


North Avenue Oddities

When the light hits a certain way on this building facade on North Avenue, the cat face appears to float as all the bricks recede. Quite an effect.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Rahway Blog Tells of Dornoch Demolition

Once again, it proves to be a good idea to check Rahway Rising, a blog devoted to development there. Plainfield and Rahway share some of the same developers and it is interesting to see how things play out in each municipality.

Click here to read about Rahway's decision to raze a Dornoch property which apparently has seen no action since 2007.

Plainfield entrusted many development activities to the Union County Improvement Authority in 2006, but nothing has been heard lately. Perhaps our new director of Public Works & Urban Development can check on pending projects and get a bottom line.

--Bernice Paglia

Update on North Avenue

North Avenue was open on Sunday and taxis were at their usual spot next to the train station as the building demolition moved into final cleanup mode.

This wall from the building to the left of the demolished one has a solid wall that will just require removal of adjacent bricks at the rear.

But this wall on the right is a party wall, meaning it was joined to the next building, and it will require extra work to seal it off. Business owner Ivette Rovayo was on the alert Sunday for leaks from the roof in the building next to the demolition site.

The site has been fenced off at front and rear. Debris must still be removed from the basement.

The future of the site, which is directly across from the main train station, is not known at this time.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mystery Solved

On my May 2008 visit to Seattle, I saw quite a few plants that I could not identify. Seattle is in Zone 8 and has a range of vegetation that includes many plants we won't see in the Northeast unless global warming changes our climate a bit more. This plant was growing next to the breezeway at the house Audrey and Peter were renting. Audrey called a few days ago to say she found out it is a Fatsia Japonica. The umbels of black berries are very striking and according to plant references are preceded by umbels of white flowers. The large, glossy leaves and the size of the shrub make it a showy item indeed in the Northwest garden.


A Mixed Message

This placard on Park Avenue explains in detail the features of a renovated property up for lease.

This building was a dentist office for many years. As I recall, that was its original use and it carried over through the decades. Some may recall Dr. Peter Pappas having his practice here. The building is on a list of historic sites.

However, the presentation is marred by this pile of garbage and also by the graffiti scrawled on the front walk and the adjacent walls by street people who may have been squatting here at one point.
Property owners have an uphill fight when squatters or street people decide to claim a site as their own. The blue-tiled building at Park & Seventh has suffered a similar fate and there are many more tucked away in other parts of the city.
Surely the building above, on the city's main north-south road, gives a mixed message to prospective renters, let alone the passing public.
--Bernice Paglia

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Springtime Pix

These colorful blossoms are on a Japanese flowering quince bush in front of City Hall Annex on Watchung Avenue.

Violets are in bloom on Brook Avenue along the banks of the Green Brook.

Sycamore seed balls are coming apart and drifting down from trees bordering Municipal Lot 8 along the Green Brook. Imagine if they all took root!

Next Up for Demolition?

This boarded-up building between 130 and 140 North Avenue could be the next one in the North Avenue Historic District to require demolition, more than one person surmised while watching the building at 187 North Avenue being reduced to rubble.

It has been open to the elements for several years. The photo above is from May 2008.

Before it was boarded up at street level, one could look through an open metal gate and see that the floor was missing planks and the roof had holes.
This is what commuters on the Raritan Valley Line see. The rear of the building is open to squatters and vermin. Before the front was boarded up, piles of garbage could be seen inside.
Those who were predicting a dire future for this building may well be right.
--Bernice Paglia

Demolition Cleanup

Friday, March 26, 2010

Green Brook Needs Check-up

A look at the broken retaining wall that is endangering a North Plainfield building at 81 Westervelt Avenue prompted me to look further along the Green Brook, a natural border between the borough and the city of Plainfield.

Just past the collapsing house, another retaining wall on the North Plainfield side appears to be in precarious condition.

Recent heavy rains have washed away soil around tree roots and loosened various structures designed to contain the brook, which has been the subject of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study for decades. No work has yet been done on the portion of the brook between Dunellen and Scotch Plains. Eighteen bridges link Plainfield and North Plainfield over the brook and the border is the subject of a longterm plan to have a pedestrian and bike path along the brook.
As it is, the brook has many fallen trees and much trash on its banks. Some parts are silted up. Because decisions on the Green Brook involve Union, Somerset and Middlesex counties, action tends to be slow.

Here, debris has piled up under a building that spans the brook . There does not seem to be any cooperative clean-up plan for the brook.

This bridge on Watchung Avenue has a big crack. What would it take for authorities to assess the waterway once or twice a year and record its condition as well as the status of the many bridges between Plainfield and North Plainfield? The recent storms have made significant changes. In Plainfield, Councilmen Rashid Burney and Adrian Mapp are the 2010 liaisons to the Green Brook Flood Control Commission. Every year, the Commission holds a memorial service marking the date of a flood that caused fatalities at the Watchung Circle many years ago. But how soon will there be any action to inspect the brook pending major flood controls being put in place? Just asking.
--Bernice Paglia

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Images from the North Avenue Demolition

A prime centerpiece of the North Avenue streetscape was deemed in need of demolition Tuesday due to partial collapse of a parapet.

Today (March 25, 2010) my neighbor and I took a look in the early afternoon and saw this result in the rear of the building.

On North Avenue, a worker can be seen here detaching chains holding a marquee from
lion figurines on the facade.

The demolition attracted both members of the public and firefighters, police and media interested in documenting the event.

The demolition M.O. (modus operandi) seemed to be just pushing on things until they fell down.
A heavy-duty water hose sprayed debris as it fell.
News 12 was there to document the event.
The demolition claw was reminiscent of a Japanese film, with its insect ways of hovering and attacking.
As the demoliton progressed, another machine was brought in.
Both took bites at the structure as it began to fail.
A hard-hatted worker added his personal efforts to knock down the walls.
By late afternoon, the facade was destroyed.
By degrees, the building was reduced to rubble.
Here is the big claw machine getting ready to remove debris.

The final stages. Waiting for the the wall in the middle to fall.

The big and little claws still ready to attack.

The end of an era.
--Bernice Paglia