Mayor's State of the City Address 2023
Mayor Adrian O. Mapp – State Of The City Address 2023
What if we could bend… mold… compress… or otherwise manipulate time? What if… we could blink and create a city transformed for the better? What if… we could accomplish great things for Plainfield by snapping our fingers? What if… we could eliminate construction headaches, months of planning, years of waiting, and the slow steps toward our vision of a better Queen City? What if… we could magically wrinkle time?
Based on our accomplishments over the past ten years, it might seem like we did just that. We stood at the edge of possibilities in 2014, looked into the crystal ball, and saw today.
We saw THIS moment in our future with investor confidence manifest in our City. We saw a safer Plainfield with reduced crimes, transformed streets, and happier residents.
We saw a Queen City brimming with life and vitality - diverse and beautiful - showcasing her talents through the visual arts, multi-cultural food, state-of-the-art recreational spaces, and an economy on the rise. We saw the City of the next ten years; we saw today. And, to some, it may seem like we stepped into that crystal ball and compressed time so we could arrive at today, in the blink of an eye, a city transformed.
But as you know, there was no crystal ball. There was no magic, no fairy godmothers, genies in a bottle, or pixie dust. There was only a vision, followed by a great deal of hard work. A group of people came together, willing to give this City everything they had to make it better.
There were business owners and developers bold enough to see our potential. There were everyday residents like you and me, hearing the call to action and stepping up to the plate. No, it wasn't something make-believe; it was us. We got us here.
I can tell you that if we bent time, we did it through hard work. If it seems we compressed ten years into one, we did it through determination, focus, and intentionality. If it appears that a Fairy Godmother waved her wand and created a magic pumpkin that brought us through time to this moment. I can tell you that time travel was accomplished by the power of a unified administration and council, looking in the same direction and committed to the change that was so long in coming. Through the mighty power of unity, we wrinkled time itself and made history here in Plainfield, New Jersey!
And believe me when I say that the State of our City is Stronger than ever! Plainfield is Strong!
Ladies and gentlemen of the Queen City, Good Evening.
Please join me in acknowledging our City Council as introduced by Council President Charles McRae and thank them for their daily work on behalf of our City. The progress we see in Plainfield can only happen with this Governing body's partnership and shared vision.
The people who deal with the City's day-to-day business are members of my administration, led by the Cabinet members. This City cannot move forward without their commitment and hard work, so I thank them.
As always, I must acknowledge the love surrounding me - my beautiful wife, the First Lady Amelia Mapp, my daughters Ayisha and Shermona, my son Dennis, and my grandbabies Mawuli and Yayra. Your love is everything, and I am grateful and consider myself blessed every day.
A special welcome to our guests from the state, the county, and other elected officials, and to our partners who continue to believe and invest in our City; we thank you.
The Plainfield of today would be unrecognizable ten years ago.
Just a decade ago, when people spoke of Plainfield, they would mention crime, vagrancy, boarded-up stores, and dirty streets. Parts of Plainfield were viewed as places to avoid. For some, living in Plainfield was not a choice - it was a place you ended up and then survived.
However, where others saw a dead end, we saw potential - a vision - a winnable challenge - a diamond in the rough. We have turned that depressing version of Plainfield into a city with over a billion dollars invested with interest mounting daily, a city that steadily generated a surplus above $8 million annually, year over year, and 2022 was no exception.
We came into 2022 with high expectations for our City. Why? Because time and again, we have proved that Plainfield is capable of far more than others expect.
Last year, we hoped to generate more than $1 million in new grant revenues – well, an astonishing $8.5 million in grant revenue was generated.
In 2023, we look forward to maintaining a tax collection rate above 97.0%, allowing us to generate over $8 million in fund balance again.
About taxes - let me divert for a minute to speak with you about PILOTS or Payments In Lieu of Taxes. Some criticize using PILOTS, but we’ve harnessed their power to transform Plainfield. Without PILOTS, the only tool municipalities have to incentivize developers and investors, our city would have no development, and the blighted spaces that once existed would still be here. Contrary to what people say who don’t understand how PILOTs work and who oppose them, our city collects significantly more tax revenues under a PILOT than it would under regular conventional taxes. Simply put, PILOTs make sense.
Ten years ago, we only dreamed of a performing arts center… and today, our PPAC is booming!
Consider how strongly we bounced back from the Covid-19 pandemic: in 2021, only 1,577 persons attended events at the PPAC.
Last year, the P-PAC welcomed over 10,000 attendees, demonstrating the center's vital role in our community as a welcoming space for workforce development, arts, and activism.
The P-PAC doesn't just display Plainfield's artistic and cultural diversity – it celebrates it. It engages the community with new ideas while providing information and services. Progressive, creative programming that attracts diverse audiences is at the core of what the PPAC offers – and it does this often by highlighting our talent here in the Queen City.
Last year we featured Plainfield voices at PPAC concerts, film screenings, open mic nights, intergenerational family events, and dynamic community conversations. Let's watch this video to see more.
As you can see, our priorities include advancing diversity… equity… and inclusion...
In 2023, the P-PAC looks forward to welcoming more Plainfield residents by expanding the successful concert series and engaging our community with conversations that further the understanding of equity and justice issues. We’ll implement new program formats to invite participation, increase youth and family experiential activities, and build creative infrastructure by supporting community artists.
Our Parks and Recreation Division is another backbone of our community's leisure and recreational activities. Last year emerging from covid, we brought back many beloved annual events and had a record turnout for the return of our Independence Day Parade. We had outstanding attendance at many of our events, as Plainfield residents were eager to leave their homes and return to gathering in person.
Last year we also started several new programs, which were huge successes, including the very popular Pickleball. The new Pre-Kwanzaa Market Place was a hit, highlighting Black-owned businesses and vendors.
Go to our website and sign up for Community Pass - it’s your access to fun!
I am excited to say that plans are underway for a state-of-the-art spray park at our Rushmore Recreational Complex within the aquatics area to enhance our recreational pool activities for residents of all ages. This Park will feature a competition-size pool, a large pool deck, and a spray pod. It can be enjoyed by serious swimmers or those wanting to spray down and cool off.
As we continue to promote wellness, we'll also place an outdoor open fitness center at Madison Avenue Skate Park as we work toward a healthier and wealthier city.
Let’s hear how our residents feel about the improvements to our recreational spaces and activities.
For the most part, we’ve returned to pre-covid normalcy. But this doesn't mean we've stopped being vigilant. Our Health Division follows CDC and New Jersey Department of Health guidelines to keep our community safe.
In recognition of our efforts to proactively build a healthier community, we were again recognized as one of New Jersey's Healthiest Towns. We received an award from the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute for the Mayor's Wellness Campaign. 2022 marks the fifth year of this recognition, and we’re rightfully proud. We’re on the right path Plainfield. All this progress means nothing if we’re not healthy enough to enjoy it. We’ll keep this trend going in 2023 and go for award number six!
Continuing the quest we began ten years ago to improve access to quality health and wellness care, a Surgical Center will open in the old Muhlenberg complex in May.
The Facility will have four (4) operating rooms, eight (8) pre-op beds, and twelve (12) post-op beds. Typical procedures and types of surgeries include everything from Orthopedics, Pain Management, Podiatry, Urology, General Surgery, Plastic Surgery, Gynecologic Surgery, Endoscopy, Pediatrics, and Dental Surgery. It will accommodate ninety-five (95) occupants at a time and is projected to perform approximately 5,000 procedures in a year.
And we know that tending to our mental health is just as important as our physical wellness, so in June, we’ll open a branch of the Rutgers Behavioral Center in that same space, to provide mental health care and services for our residents.
Plainfield, our City is like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon that wrapped us tightly for so long that we almost forgot that we had a choice to emerge. We forgot that we could break through the barriers that blocked us from the sun; we forgot that life existed outside of the bleak darkness of the cocoon. We forgot how powerful we can be when we have a vision and work collaboratively to change our outcomes intentionally.
We believed that the things we had were the only things we deserved.
But we awakened in 2014, and today, we’ve emerged; like that beautiful butterfly, we’ve spread our wings. Ten long years seems like an instant; we’ve forgotten what life was like inside the cocoon, ten years while we wrinkled time over and over again to make the City we lived in the place that we and others wanted to be.
My vision for Plainfield ten years ago was straightforward. I wanted a better quality of life for all our residents and a better city for us to live in.
What does that mean?
Living in a city with better roads and safer streets is more desirable. That's why I committed to paving every street in our Queen City – to get us closer to the Plainfield everyone would want to live in - a better city for our drivers, pedestrians, and children.
We've milled and paved 144 roads totaling approximately 50.3 miles here in Plainfield. I am proud that we’re halfway toward our goal but still going. We can only be finished once every road has been paved, and that's a promise I intend to keep.
Road safety depends not only on the quality of the roads but also on the speed at which we drive. As part of the plan to reduce speeding, twenty-two (22) speed humps were installed at various crossroads around the City. More will be installed to keep our roadways safe for drivers and walkable for pedestrians.
And because we constantly seek ways to improve the vital services that touch residents daily, we dissolved the PMUA - replacing it with the Plainfield Solid Waste & Sewer Utility. The newly formed Utility has received overwhelmingly positive responses from residents for its timeliness and responsiveness.
Since the City of Plainfield took over the Solid Waste and Sewer Utility on July 1st, 2022, all trash and recycling materials have been collected efficiently. The Utility has eliminated missed collections and significantly reduced the wait time for bulk pickups. Sewer crews are also on schedule with cleaning our sewers across the City. But we’re not resting on our laurels; we'll continue improving all operational procedures to provide excellent service.
Earlier this year, we determined that the PSWSU could provide financial relief to the City's sewer customers without compromising its services. In February, the City Council approved a 5% sewer rebate for owners of one-to-four-unit residential properties for 2023. Cumulatively, this rebate will save impacted property owners $300,000 this year.
And by the way - this is not the first time my administration has provided relief for our taxpayers. Over the past three years, the City has had two zero tax increases. We paid overdue bills for residents whose water was to be disconnected. We continue to prioritize the needs of our vulnerable populations because we recognize that we can only be as strong as the weakest among us.
But why take it from me? Let’s hear how a resident feels about the service provided by the new Utility.
The City Utility employees continue to work tirelessly daily to provide high-quality service for our residents. Improving collection services has enhanced the overall quality of life across the City. Our mission is to continue making our City a cleaner, greener, and healthier place to live, work, play, and raise a family.
Do you believe that we bent time to get here? Have any of these improvements struck a chord with you? Is there something you take for granted today that wasn’t available ten years ago? My administration is one of the hardest working teams in New Jersey, so things appear to get done magically. In truth, they work day and night tirelessly for our City.
Michael Jordan said - "I've missed over 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
Success is not measured only by every win but by how you weather the losses, learn from them, and then do better, never giving up. Well… we know a thing or two about learning from mistakes. We know about loss. We know about missing our shots. And we know how to get up, dust ourselves off and try again.
Resilience is built into the DNA of every Plainfield resident. From the minute you claim Plainfield as your home, you know you'll have to work a little harder to get the things you want. But we are unbothered and undeterred by that.
For years we’ve seen opportunities given to neighboring municipalities. We’ve seen resources poured into improving the quality of life for those we can see from our borders. We stood on the sidelines and watched others get the boost they needed to get a leg up.
But we're not built to complain… We had a vision in 2014 and were determined to get there. It was time to learn from our mistakes, take those lessons, and turn them into wins. So if it seems like we just happened to enter a portal that dropped us into 2023, looking out on a transformed city, understand the only portal was an unwillingness to accept losses, a determination to keep trying, and the wisdom to learn from experience. These ingredients created our wrinkle in time.
I cannot overemphasize how much thought and effort we spend addressing quality of life issues…
That’s why I formed the Quality of Life task force in 2019. Last year they performed 101 inspections, issued violations with clear directives on addressing the issues, then re-inspected those properties to ensure the clean-up and abatement were done. We will not tolerate blight in our neighborhoods, and we can't allow our residents who take pride in their spaces to have their property values plummet because of the negligence of a few. Those days of neglect are over for Plainfield. The message is clear, clean up, or we WILL get involved.
In 2023, We’ll continue aggressively pursuing individuals that violate property maintenance codes. Our City must shine like the Queen that it is.
If we are magically improving Plainfield, our plan must be all-encompassing. Plainfield can’t be healthy without addressing our environmental impact. To reduce our emissions and lower fuel costs, the Department of Public Works will replace its fleet with Electric Vehicles and install EV charging stations at City Hall Parking Lots and in the business district. This will improve our carbon footprint. We're building a better Plainfield for our children to inherit. A greener Plainfield is a sustainable, smarter, and more livable Plainfield.
My friends, did you think these changes were possible in our City ten years ago?
It's like we went to sleep one night and awoke in a completely new city.
It may seem like buildings went up in a day, but it took a lot of work, and there were no developments ten years ago. If you wanted to live in Plainfield, your options were limited.
Now you can choose between a beautiful historic home, a multifamily dwelling, or a brand-new residential building with luxury amenities.
In 2022 among other projects, we welcomed the Randolph opposite the new CVS on Park Avenue, The Hopes school on Seventh Street, and Mamajuana’s Restaurant on Watchung Avenue. Other projects underway include 1000 North Avenue, where we’ll cut the ribbon on Tuesday, 803 South Avenue, and 829 South Avenue. The development at Third & Roosevelt is also nearing completion.
Since July, over 600 residential units and over 200,000 square feet of commercial space have been developed. We held the official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Netherwood Flats a few weeks ago, bringing 70 more luxury apartment units to market. By the way, it's almost fully leased up, just like every other residential development in the City.
I’ve been asked why Plainfield continues to build apartments and supports gentrification. The answer is that the demand for these apartments continues unabated, and our city has NO gentrification. Not one dwelling has been demolished to make way for our current residential projects. Every development is in a space that was blighted for decades. There were no plans for them, and they were eyesores. Rest assured that we can welcome new residents to our city without displacing the ones we already have.
The Planning and Zoning Boards of Adjustment received thirty-five (35) new applications in 2022. Certificates of occupancy were issued for twenty-eight (28) facilities totaling over $59 million in construction costs.
A plan for a future Plainfield is incomplete without spaces for our younger residents to explore recreational interests. We’ve explored several options over the past ten years seeking the right opportunity to create the perfect space.
In early 2022, we began the community engagement and research planning process for the Plainfield Center of Excellence project. Located in the former YMCA building, we envision a place to swim in winter, play golf during a rainstorm, shoot hoops early or late, dance, work out, learn, and gather with friends. Some may use the term Rec Center, but it will be much more than that. It will be a hub for the community, encompassing recreational, educational, and cultural programming.
We engaged the community to seek input on the amenities they wanted to be included in the project. We conducted in-person and electronic surveys. We are preparing a space reflecting your wishes based on the information gathered. Stay tuned for more details as we move forward with this project.
Our small businesses are the backbone of our City. Our business owners invested in keeping our downtown alive when the major department stores moved out. Many of our local businesses represent a lifetime of savings invested in a dream. We take that faith in our City very seriously. We stand behind our small businesses every day.
For us, it's not just a talking point – We put our money where our mouth is. We supported sixty-nine (69) businesses during the pandemic – almost half a million dollars went back to them, with funds from our Plainfield Small Business Relief Grant Program. We will not stand by and watch our businesses fail. We'll continue to invest in supporting the growth of our entrepreneurs.
That’s why we invested in supporting the Accelerator Program for Entrepreneurs hosted by our co-working space, “From Here.” Through this program, aspiring and new entrepreneurs will go through a year-long mentoring program that guides them through the pitfalls of owning a new business and helps them with tasks like establishing a website and managing the books.
At the end of the program, one lucky entrepreneur will receive $25,000 to invest in their business. This is how we grow, by supporting new ideas and thinking collaboratively. This is how we transform our city, one endeavor at a time.
As we look ahead to the next ten years, the future Plainfield MUST progress in all sectors, so we must keep pace with the technology industry; that's why we continue implementing the Innovation Challenge Grant recommendations. This includes seeking partners for an Advanced/Digital Manufacturing Center in the West End Industrial Corridor and securing local, county, and state supporters. We have secured NJIIT as a partner to operate a Strategic Innovation Center. You'll hear more about this in the months to come.
Plainfield will always closely follow where progress leads. Following the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in our state, we researched how our City could take advantage of the opportunity to build up our local economy and support those looking to get involved in the industry.
The Plainfield Cannabis Unit gave ten municipal support packages to cannabis vendors for retail, manufacturing, and cultivation businesses. One of these was the 1st in New Jersey to receive an annual license from the Cannabis Regulatory Commission.
We ensured that every cannabis licensee had a component of social equity built into its operational plan. Opportunities opened up for residents impacted by the draconian enforcement of the old drug laws. Our local economy will benefit from jobs for residents and tax revenues from these businesses.
We are poised to enter another exciting chapter in our City's history. I can't wait to see where we emerge when we review our journey after another ten years…
We've made city parking more convenient and accessible with the Thirty-six New Flowbird kiosk machines and the accompanying pay-by-phone app.
As you can see, the changes in Plainfield are happening rapidly but efficiently, and safety is perhaps the most critical component in a comprehensive quality-of-life plan.
As part of our "Light up the City" initiative, our Signal Division installed blinking lights at twenty (20) four-way stop intersections to assist with "traffic calming" around the City.
And to boost safety and comfort at night, we'll continue upgrading lighting, street, and traffic signs in 2023.
Law enforcement officers are never 'off duty.' They are dedicated public servants sworn to protect public safety whenever and wherever the peace is threatened. They need all the support and help that they can get from us.
If you feel a greater sense of safety and security on our streets, it's well justified. Violent crime has decreased by 46% since 2013.
The Police Dept stepped up its vigilance, increasing the number of summonses issued for moving and parking violations by 20%.
We'll continue to improve the quality of life for all residents by finding innovative solutions to address the issues of homelessness and vagrancy throughout the City.
We reactivated Community Oriented Policing in our downtown area in 2022 as part of our efforts to improve our Downtown area. Our Police Department completed the Accreditation process again, assuring a better trained Law Enforcement body.
You spoke, and we heard you, and we've taken aggressive steps to clamp down on the dirt bikes that took over our streets. They pose a real threat to other vehicles and pedestrians. We've confiscated several unlicensed dirt bikes, which will be destroyed. City streets are not the place for dirt bikes. So to maintain quality of life for everyone, we ask you to be mindful of the laws if you own one of these bikes.
Going across town to our Fire Department…
We completed the construction of a training facility at Engine 3 Fire Station.
We also acquired a state-of-the-art technical rescue trailer which we'll use to stage training for various types of rescues. We're always working to make things more convenient for our residents, so we've streamlined the services offered to be more efficient when issuing permits from our Fire Department.
In the words of Coretta Scott King, "The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members."
The Love Plainfield campaign launched in 2021 has continued to foster a spirit of love, pride, and unity in our City.
In 2022 - we focused on cleaning and beautifying our City, highlighting the talent and potential of our young Plainfielders, and building community spirit.
New in 2023 is the Queen City Street Fair coming in June! We’ll celebrate one of the things that makes Plainfield so unique - our diversity. And we’re bringing back the Arts Festival in August.
If you don’t yet own a Love Plainfield T-shirt, stop by the Office of Communications, and grab one. We want you to LOVE PLAINFIELD and wear it proudly!
Thomas Jefferson once said, "A democratic society depends upon an informed and educated citizenry."
Today, we take for granted all the media platforms that we use to disseminate information. But ten years ago, Plainfield had zero social media presence, and finding information took a lot of work. Now, you’ll find the latest news with just a few clicks.
Our emphasis is on convenience.
In 2023 we'll continue community outreach with particular emphasis on reaching some of our harder-to-connect-with communities. And we're working on an exciting Broadband project. We’ll blanket our City with fiber and use that as our foundation to build a SMARTER city. Some benefits include free WIFI access in public gathering spaces across our City, such as city parks and downtown, increased safety with more cameras, blue light phones in the parks, and improved lighting in every dark space.
Friends - we ran a marathon in the time it takes to cross the street…
We wrinkled time.
You may not have noticed when it was happening, but one day, you felt safer walking through the streets of your neighborhood. You were more comfortable with the playgrounds your children played in, proud to see cleaner streets and quality community events. Maybe one day, you admired the beautiful new buildings around our City.
In 2014 when we understood the work that needed to be done, some of us wished for a magic wand. Some hoped for a time machine to bypass the difficult task before us. Still, others thought it was only possible through divine intervention.
The fact that we are here today, now counting toward our second billion in investment dollars, is validation that we didn't need magic tricks. We had everything we needed… a clear vision, a unified team, and people ready to work toward the dream of something better.
The fact that I can share with you that we've passed the halfway mark toward paving every single road in our City proves that we didn't need a flying carpet to transport us to a fairytale world. All we needed was ingenuity and some creativity.
The fact that we improved our recreational spaces making havens where our children can enjoy the same amenities as our more affluent neighbors, is evidence that no genie in a bottle is necessary when we remain focused on the fundamental mission of improving the quality of life for all our residents.
This wasn’t a time wrinkle - this was you…
City employees who made improving services not a job but a mission…
Active residents who volunteered their service for Boards and Commissions and took ownership of the changes they wanted to see in the Queen City…
Investors who saw our potential and knew we had what it takes to be great…
Elected officials who went to work ensuring that both branches of our government worked in harmony in the best interest of our City…
And all the others that stood with us believing and refusing to leave us behind.
Your dedication created every strand of time over the past ten years. You are the fabric that makes up our City, and you wrinkled time.
It was YOU.
We didn’t need a trick deck of cards; we needed investor confidence…
We didn't need pixie dust; we needed a solid financial strategy…
We didn't need superpowers; we needed hope to believe; we needed one united community facing the same direction and fighting to realize the dream that eluded us for over five long decades.
All we needed, Plainfield, was a little faith, a commitment to the vision, and a lot of love…
Michio Kaku is an American theoretical physicist, futurist, and science popularizer. He believes that in Einstein's equation, time is a river. It speeds up, meanders, and slows down. The new wrinkle is that it can have whirlpools and fork into two rivers. So, if the river of time can be bent into a pretzel, create eddies, and split into two rivers, then time travel cannot be ruled out.
Plainfield, just as we had our vision in 2014 and stood ready to work and fight for the better we deserved. I ask you to close your eyes and join me as we look into that future void and see our Queen City ten years from now.
Transformed even more than it is today… and renew your commitment to the fight.
Let's wrinkle time again and imagine a city with a downtown huddled around a cozy pedestrian hub where we gather for sidewalk coffees, connect to free WIFI, and enjoy summer outdoor concerts.
Conjure the image of well-paved roads, with bicycle lanes and electric cars smoothly pulling up to the curb for a quick charge.
Head over to Park Avenue and picture, if you will, needing a routine surgery and pulling into the former Muhlenberg campus, where you'll have a state-of-the-art medical facility, skilled surgeons, and the convenience of not having to go far from home.
Feel the joy of entering our Center of Excellence, where you can enjoy a heated pool in the middle of winter, where you can walk the indoor track in the middle of a snowstorm, play basketball, workout in the gym, then walk a few feet and join a class on networking. Imagine our children growing up with this space available for their recreational use…
Can you use your mind and wrinkle time?
Can you see what I see, Plainfield? Can you feel the magic in the air? Can you feel the excitement and the possibilities?
Ten years ago, the City we dared to dream of today seemed impossible, a fantasy created by wishful thinking. Today, we see that City emerging and surpassing our dreams and expectations. Tomorrow, the only limitations to how far we can go are the ones placed by ourselves. We have defied expectations repeatedly, and ten years from today, our children will bear witness to the fact that we will do it again.
Plainfield, even as we jump through time, we must remember who we are at the core; we must keep sight of the things that make us unique. We are a city founded on historical greatness, forged in the fires of rebellion, and evolved into a community unique in its diversity. A mecca for rich cultural traditions with a shifting landscape that is ushering in a new era for our City.
Queen City, the real magic here tonight is our children. They are the ones who will compress time and push us through space to 2033. It is their ideas that will shape our City, and it is they who will finish the work that we begin today. Peer with me tonight into the looking glass, see the faces who are the future of our City, observe how we control time and bend the future, and bear witness as tonight…
we… wrinkle… time…
Because the State of our City is STRONG!
May God bless you, bless Plainfield, and bless the United States of America.