Monday, April 30, 2012

The Future of Muhlenberg may rest with the CREAM

Over the past couple of weeks, several people have contacted me regarding the status of JFK Health Systems’ proposal to construct 600 units of residential housing in two multi-story buildings on the Muhlenberg Hospital Campus. 

As many of you will recall, I led a ward 3 council meeting at Cedarbrook School a few weeks ago to give the community at large, and my ward 3 constituents in particular, an opportunity to be heard on JFK's proposal for the Muhlenberg Campus. During that meeting I made my position very clear; I stated, emphatically, my opposition to JFK’s idea, which seems more like a devious plot intended to implode the existing historic structures that cradle 150 years of history. My wife Amelia gave birth to our children at Muhlenberg--it holds a lot of history for us as well.

The thought of residential multi-story buildings in this beautiful, park-like area of the city seems more like a bad dream, where stealth pilots descend from hatches in the sky onto the third ward with giant parachutes designed to inflate 4 stories high. Then suddenly we are jolted back to reality and the thought of 600 apartment units in buildings that would tower over pristine single-family homes with manicured lawns is more than a bad dream; it’s an actual proposal, born of insensitivity by an institution (JFK Health Systems) that has taken flight from the community, leaving its citizens in the area in the lurch.

In order for the current proposal to begin moving forward, JFK Health Systems would have to submit a request to the City Council if it desires to change the current zoning of the Muhlenberg Campus. The Council would then have to vote up or down the request. A "yes" vote by a majority of council members would be required to refer the matter to the Planning Board for review and for a recommendation back to the Council. The Council would then be required to accept or to reject the Planning Board's recommendation. As of this date, there has been no request or application submitted to the Council by JFK Health Systems, or by any other entity for the rezoning of the Muhlenberg Campus. 

Given that next year will mark the fifth year of Muhlenberg’s exit from the City, I am proposing the creation of CREAM: 

Community Residents Engaged About Muhlenberg

The purpose of the CREAM committee would be to work with JFK Health Systems, the Mayor, and the Council to develop a consensus proposal for the best use of the campus. This would be a "bottom up" approach, as opposed to a "top down" approach that is foisted upon us with no real community involvement or engagement. The CREAM should be made up of citizens from across all four wards of Plainfield, with diverse backgrounds and open minds. JFK’s recent proposal for the Muhlenberg campus is an example of how not to take a community for granted, and why community buy-in is a key ingredient to success. The future of Muhlenberg may rest with the CREAM.

It remains my position, that the best use of the Muhlenberg Campus is one that delivers quality healthcare to the residents of Plainfield and the surrounding communities. It is my hope that this will be the ultimate outcome. However, a recommendation coming from the CREAM among us should be embraced by all.

I will keep certainly keep YOU, the residents, apprised of any request that is received by the Council regarding the Muhlenberg Campus.