Friday, October 13, 2006

The Joy of UCIA - 13 for the 13th


If the picture above does not look completely familiar, it's because the clock shown is SUPPOSED TO BE THERE, but is not. It's just one of the several unfinished items of business having to do with the UCIA's development of the Park-Madison office and retail complex. See more pix below.

Meanwhile, PT received plenty of feedback from participants and those close to the project concerning yesterday's post on the NEGOTIATIONS surrounding the project. Seems PT OVERSTATED the facts: the memories of several are that THERE WAS NO REAL NEGOTIATION OPPORTUNITY, THE CITY WAS SIMPLY TOLD WHAT IT WOULD HAVE TO SETTLE FOR. The threat was that if participants didn't go along, they would get "cut off at the knees" by UCIA Executive Director Charlotte DeFilippo -- with no hope of redemption. Among those 'nominated' for this honor -- Mayor Al McWilliams, former Corporation Counsel Jackie Drakeford, Economic Development Director Pat Ballard Fox, and development consultant attorney Joe Maraziti.

(If you want a print of this vintage photomontage, click on the image to enlarge it
and set your printer for '
LANDSCAPE' orientation.)

2. A vintage view of the intersection of PARK AVENUE and FRONT STREET in the 1950s, facing southwest, assembled from three photographs. The jagged intersection of Park Avenue and Somerset Street was smoothed out at the time of the Park-Madison demolition. Unfortunately, the foundations were merely knocked down and the new street paved over improperly compacted material. When the materials eventually settled, the street caved in -- just a few years ago, on Mayor McWilliams' watch -- necessitating EMERGENCY TEMPORARY repairs. Part of the UCIA agreement was to RECONSTRUCT PROPERLY the block of Park Avenue between Front and Second Streets -- for which the UCIA has ALREADY received funding from the City.

3. The PARKING DECK, which is supposed to be available to residents after-hours and on weekends. Note that the sign firmly indicates EMPLOYEES ONLY.

4. and 5. PARKING METERS are supposed to be installed in the inner parking area so that the City can capture some income to help with the PILOT, which does not fully recompense the City for its tax burden. Note the meters are MISSING. In their place are only small signs warning of time limits on the FREE PARKING.

6. The Park Jewelers CLOCK. This antique street clock is the clock that figures prominently in the novel 'A Tree Grows In Brooklyn,' and was brought out from Brooklyn to Plainfield by the original owners of the Park Jewelers store. The UCIA agreement calls for the clock to be RELOCATED TO THE PLAZA in front of the new County Office Building. Cost of move PAID FOR ALREADY by the City.
(11:30 AM - Correction - Inclusion of the clock was a stipulation of the Planning Board; the City did NOT pay for its move. This makes the UCIA look even worse -- THUMBING ITS NOSE at the very board which it must come before AGAIN AND AGAIN with all its new projects. Talk about CHUTZPAH!)

7. The PUBLIC PLAZA in front of the Office Building. There are TWO ISSUES: that the CLOCK should be moved here as promised; and the resolution of WHO CONTROLS ACCESS TO PUBLIC USE OF THE PLAZA. Now, this may seem minor, but just think about the difference in getting a permit for an outdoor event there if you had to go to the City Clerk's office HERE IN TOWN, or the County offices IN ELIZABETH. Get my drift?

8. Exposed DUMPSTERS. One of the requirements of the agreement -- and of getting a permanent Certificate of Occupancy is that dumpsters MUST BE SCREENED. Do you see any screening? PT has noticed issues of overflowing on occasion -- this could either be because the dumpsters are TOO SMALL or not enough PICKUPS are scheduled. Completely correctible -- if desired.

9. and 10. The UCIA's 'CRACK BABIES.' The oval public plaza is outlined with a ribbon of contrasting fake 'brick,' which is actually a composition material poured into place and impressed with brick patterns while still soft. Settlement -- which PT thinks ought to have been entirely predictable considering the plaza's construction -- has led to MANY CRACKS in the fake brick ribbon at points where the plaza has settled. At one point, even the concrete of the plaza is already failing -- after only ONE WINTER.

11. through 13. The stanchion of the TRAFFIC LIGHT at the corner of Front and Park. If this doesn't look like a crapola job, PT never saw one. Notice that the sheathing doesn't even come to the ground and appears to have a piece of plywood jerry-rigged into it. This is QUALITY work?

And the Administration has signed on for more -- make that MUCH MORE -- of the same?

-- Dan Damon

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