Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Council Discusses Demolition

The cost of demolishing a 19th century building on North Avenue now stands at $140,000, but could rise to $200,000, officials said in a City Council meeting Monday.

Built in 1886, the building was an integral part of the historic streetscape directly across from the city’s main train station. City officials declared it an imminent hazard after bricks fell off a parapet on March 23 and it was torn down two days later. Attempts to reach the owner were unsuccessful. Although a lien will be placed on the property, the city will bear the immediate cost, which will show up as an emergency appropriation in the FY 2011 budget.

City Administrator Bibi Taylor explained the events that led to the demolition, but Councilman William Reid said, “Someone should have been looking at buildings like this in the past so we wouldn’t have to demolish them.”

Reid said the building’s deterioration took a number of years and questioned the role of the Inspections Division, saying the administration should set up a team to study similar buildings.

Councilman Rashid Burney agreed, saying, “Enforcement – early, often and hard – is the answer.”

Burney noted another building in bad shape about half a block west. The façade is boarded up, but the rear is open to the elements.

Water damage over many years was also a factor in the demolition of the 1886 building, as it had no roof and floors had collapsed. It had been marked by the Fire Division some time ago as unsafe to enter. Although it had liens dating back to 1994, Taylor said, there was some thought that redevelopment would take place.

As Plaintalker has reported, former NBA star Jayson Williams promised in the 1990s to redevelop the North Avenue Commercial Historic District, between Watchung and Park avenues, but nothing transpired. In 2006, Landmark Developers agreed to redevelop the district and the Union County Improvement Authority was to oversee the plan.

Councilman Cory Storch asked whether the administration was aware of an abandoned property ordinance passed in 2005 that allowed the city to take property if an owner neglected it despite warnings and timelines for action.

“We have to get the clock running,” he said.

But Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson repeated the notion that someone was going to come in and redevelop the entire tract.

At this point, the main concern is to stabilize walls of adjoining buildings, one of which has a “party wall” that had been structurally connected to the demolished building. Part of the demolition cost will be to shore up both walls.

Council President Annie McWilliams asked why the façade could not be saved, but Remington & Vernick Engineer Wendell Bibbs said it was a question of “competing interests” and who would pay for preserving a façade on private property. Bibbs also noted that due to wear, the façade was essentially just a stack of bricks. This comment was borne out in the demolition, when just the tap of a machine’s claw brought down entire walls.

Reid disagreed, saying “Any façade can be reproduced with modern construction methods.”

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The inspection department is too busy going after cracked sidewalks and peeling paint on current taxpaying homeowners too look after walls falling down for years. Just look at the property down the street from Walgreen's. How long has that gutted building been an eye sore with nothing done. I guess there is no peeling paint on the rubble.

10:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i was lookin at the police station they got bricks fallen out and stuff too.

7:31 AM  
Anonymous Marvin Selwicky said...

Absolutely correct at 10:45pm. Rather than face the real problems like these abandoned properties the inspections unit cites residents for a hairline crack in a sidewalk. I'm not saying that sidewalks don't need to be repaired but there are buildings all over the city that are in need of repair or fines to the owner.

For Mr. Williamson to say that the entire tract will be redeveloped is the "whole" thought process of the administration. Even if it is "going" to be redeveloped it doesn't mean that the owner is not fully responsible to maintain it until such time. The city has lien power and they must use it to collect on the taxpayer dollars that were spent on the demolition.

Is the council's new focus "abandoned" buildings? Come on folks, you passed resolutions and ordinances, it's now on the city administration. Hold them accountable!

7:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The city has lost it's prioroties. We easly find $120,000 to demolish a building. But do not have enough inspectors to enforce our own weak laws.

7:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To add to the comment, inspections goes after tax-paying, responsible homeowners over minor infractions so they can get the fine money.

They don't bother with the poorer sections, absentee landlords, abandoned property -- because those individuals don't care.

So the city harrasses citizens who do care about their homes over minor stuff. It's just another tax.

$140,00-200,000 to demolish. Seems if you're going to spend that kind of money -- the building could have been seized, rehabbed and GASP - made some money renting it out.

The administration, council all sat on their hands. They all TALK a lot, but I have yet to see ANY REAL POSITIVE ACTION from anyone.

Reid is incorrect. An old facade cannot be duplicated today -- we don't have the materials and/or the workmanship and the cost is prohibitive. Just ask anyone with a historic home. Example - replacing a slate roof - no one can afford it. Just obvious Reid doesn't know anything about historic buildings.

That is what makes one despair. The people in power just don't know enough. They may be well-meaning, but their lack of knowledge, ability to take decisive action that might rock the boat (not covering their butts, making kissy face with Green, etc) -- all this is showing up that the city is in major trouble.

Plainfield has some great people, the mix of cultures could be a great strength. But, the city has to quit it's pandering ways, get tough, clean the town up, make Plainfield uncomfortable for lawbreakers (ie force them out), preserve what is good and get rid of the crap and people on the payroll who are not doing their jobs (like the civilian director getting laid on city time!!) -- and I'm including the administration and council.

Taxpayers are the boss. We need to kick butt, demand value for dolalrs spent and clean house.

8:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I assume that the 10:45 commentator is talking about the roofless group of buildings on Leland Avenue, just north of North Avenue, which have been in that state for most of the 30 years that I have lived in Plainfield. (Not to mention the condemned residence across the street.)

I have thought it ironoic that so much energy has been spent to rationalize expenditures for the South Avenue "Gateway" on the basis of showing our best face to visitors from the east, but no one seems to care about those who approach the exact same intersection from the north, who have to pass by the rubble. I guess it's a function of the power of persuasion of the South Avenue merchants. That's not a bad thing, but the fact that the merchants, not the city, provides the impetus highlights how weak the city's leadership is, including the 1st and 2nd Ward Councilmen, who have allowed the blight to continue on their watch.

8:13 AM  
Blogger Rob said...

As I stated at the "Visioning Study"...how is it that Plainfield finds the money and justification to mow lawns of foreclosed properties yet not enough money and time to go after buildings "about" to collapse.

10:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We need to make sure we have enough $$ to pay all the Police and Fire staff to march in the July 4th parade at time and a half, NOT the fixing of eye sores around town. Don't you understand the priorities ?

12:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can the City Attorney represent bar owners in town

4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The buildings on Leland are certainly contaminated. Thats why they sit abandoned for decades. There are brown and greenfield funding monies available for cleanup, but someone would have to go apply for it.

2:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone would have to apply and then administer the grant--and the city has laid off the only person with experience in this.

5:50 PM  

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