Among the most aggressive urban redevelopment efforts in Union County is transforming the city of Plainfield. And for that the mayor has been named the Gateway Regional Chamber of Commerce Mayor of the Year. Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron recently sat down with Plainfield Mayor Adrian Mapp.
Aron: Mayor, how are things in Plainfield?
Mapp: Things in Plainfield are going I would say very well at this time. I’m pleased with the direction that we’re taking the city.
Aron: What direction is that?
Mapp: That direction is one that will see a city that is transformed. A city where there is a renaissance, where developers are coming to our city and where our public safety is in a very good place and where we are providing opportunities for our young people.
Aron: What kind of development is coming to Plainfield?
Mapp: We have mixed use development. We have development in our transit village. We recently cut the ribbon on a commercial phase one of a $30 million development. Many developers are knocking on the doors coming to Plainfield.
Aron: When you got the Gateway Mayor of the Year award, accompanying it was a press release saying that there are 62 projects on the drawing boards in Plainfield worth a quarter of a billion dollars. Does that sound right?
Mapp: That is absolutely correct. We have several projects. Most of them are before the zoning or planning boards, and some of them are in a very active state of construction as we speak. There is one for $50 million that is on the main thoroughfare in the Plainfield South Avenue.
Aron: And you’ve been quoted as saying you want to market Plainfield. When I think of Plainfield I think of this little out of the way city off of Route 22 that has a beautiful housing stock in certain parts of town. Its got other parts of town that are pretty rundown. How do you sell Plainfield?
Mapp: Plainfield is a city that is very diverse, economically, socially, and we have assets in our city, we have a population that is highly educated and we have opportunities. We have 10 historic districts and I must tell you that the opportunities in Plainfield, the economic vibrancy that’s occurring, the cultural diversity, these are some assets that we usually point to. But I must mention that Plainfield is a very safe city and it is for that reason that so many investors are coming to our city.
Aron: You say it’s a very safe city. Last year there were 12 homicides, so far this year two. Even people who live in Plainfield and love Plainfield seem to say it has a gang problem. What do you say?
Mapp: Here’s why I tell you that Plainfield is a very safe city: since I took office in January 2014 crime as a whole has gone down by 25 percent, violent crime is down by 30 percent and in spite of those incidents of homicides that we’ve experienced, overall the climate in Plainfield is one that is safe. And I say to people who are looking for a place where they can invest, where they can come and experience our housing stock, where they can come and be a part of the renaissance that we’re seeing in our city, Plainfield is a wonderful place with a diversity and a cultural heritage that is unlike any place that you’ll find.
Aron: You’re from Barbados, right?
Mapp: I’m from beautiful Barbados.
Aron: You came here at what age?
Mapp: I came here at the age of 21.
Aron: And you came to Plainfield?
Mapp: I actually came to Queens, New York, lived there for about a year and a half and then I moved to Plainfield in 1979 and I’ve made Plainfield my home ever since.
Aron: Why did you move to Plainfield?
Mapp: I moved to Plainfield because I had some distant relatives who lived in Plainfield as well as I was working for a transportation company that had relocated from downtown Manhattan to Cranford, New Jersey.
Aron: Politics in Plainfield are never peaceful, somebody said to me, and you and Jerry Green, the assemblyman and Union County Democratic chairman, have feuded over the years, or been on different teams at least over the years. I understand that’s been all patched up now? Are things better between you and the chairman of the county Democrats?
Mapp: Things between myself and the chairman are in a very good place and I have no permanent enemies, permanent interests. When we come together as one it’s better for Plainfield. The progress that we’re seeing, the relationships that we’ve been able to establish and bringing people to the table working as partners has been very good for the city of Plainfield.
Aron: Is this unusual that both teams are working together?
Mapp: Well some people may see it that way, but I see it as a recognition and a realization from the part of both of us that together we are stronger.
Aron: Well, I spoke to Jerry Green, he agrees with you, and he says the city is moving in the right direction and acknowledges that you’ve had your differences over the years but that things are harmonious now. Good luck with the renaissance and you’re running for reelection in the fall?
Mapp: I’m running for reelection. I’m looking forward to moving the city forward and continuing the progress that we started three years ago.
Aron: Mayor Adrian Mapp thanks very much.
Mapp: Thank you. It’s a pleasure.