The night a Planning Board meeting broke out

Imagine bringing a hoard of sports fans to Madison Square Garden with the expectation of a boxing match, only to find the Westminster Dog Show. That’s similar to what happened on Thursday evening downstairs at Plainfield Library.

Residents are rightfully fuming over the loss of Muhlenberg Hospital, all the while finding themselves embroiled in a second fight to prevent six hundred rental units in its place. JFK’s proposed movement of the emergency room to the Kenyon House, the subject of this Planning Board meeting, is seen by many clearing space for non-medical uses at the former hospital. Now that the board allows for public comments, Plainfielders came out expecting to take JFK to task on Muhlenberg as a whole and giving a larger context to the emergency room proposal.

But then something happened to this pro-hospital community function – a Planning Board meeting broke out, and the overwhelming majority of attendees left two thirds the way through (see Bernice’s post about the proposal).

The attorney, VP of facilities, civil engineer, and architect weren’t exactly power brokers and orchestrators of JFK’s divestment from Plainfield, nor could they talk about it. Planning Board Chairman Ron Scott Bey reminded attendees several times over that they can only address the professionals representing JFK’s plan concerning this particular permit, not the existing building or the loss of the hospital. Bey even had to summon a police officer to take Clare Zanfini from the mic towards the beginning of the meeting. The video is below, and she sums up many of our feelings rather well.

Future speakers increasingly took heed to the rules, but it didn’t stop them from finding fault with the only person they possibly could – the designer that sat before them. One resident, Robin Bright, found the rooms small and demanded that that architect Bob Ryan tell the dimensions of each room in the building – he obliged. Long time activist Dottie Gutenkauf asked the architect why the soiled holding area was so close to the waiting room, amongst other questions. Meanwhile, Nancy Piwowar called the architect’s design flat out ugly and proposed her own aesthetic suggestions.

We’ve got some passionate people here in Plainfield, and that’s great.

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