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Plainfield is a city in Union County, New Jersey, United States, known by its nickname as "The Queen City". As of the 2010 United States Census, the city's population increased to 49,808, its highest ever recorded population in any decennial census, with the population having increased by 1,979 (+4.1%) from the 47,829 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 1,262 (+2.7%) from the 46,567 counted in the 1990 Census.
The area of present-day Plainfield was originally formed as Plainfield Township, a township that was created on April 5, 1847, from portions of Westfield Township, while the area was still part of Essex County. On March 19, 1857, Plainfield Township became part of the newly created Union County.
Plainfield was incorporated as a city by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on April 21, 1869, from portions of Plainfield Township, based on the results of a referendum held that same day. The city and township coexisted until March 6, 1878, when Plainfield Township was dissolved and parts were absorbed by Plainfield city, with the remainder becoming Fanwood Township (now known as Scotch Plains).
The name "Plainfield", also used in both North Plainfield and South Plainfield, is derived from a local estate or from its scenic location.
Plainfield was settled in 1684 by Quakers, and incorporated as a city in 1869. Formerly a bedroom suburb in the New York metropolitan area, it has become the urban center of 10 closely allied municipalities, with diversified industries, including printing and the manufacture of chemicals, clothing, electronic equipment, and vehicular parts. Among the several 18th-century buildings remaining are a Friends' meetinghouse (1788), the Martine house (1717), and the Nathaniel Drake House (1746), known as George Washington's headquarters during the Battle of Short Hills in June 1777. Nearby Washington Rock is a prominent point of the Watchung Mountains and is reputed to be the vantage point from which Washington watched British troop movements.
In 1902, the New Jersey Legislature approved measures that would have allowed the borough of North Plainfield to become part of Union County (a measure repealed in 1903) and to allow for a merger of North Plainfield with the City of Plainfield subject to the approval of a referendum by voters in both municipalities.
Plainfield is the birthplace of P-Funk. George Clinton founded The Parliaments while working in a barber shop in Plainfield. Parliament-Funkadelic was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. Plainfield has been home to former New Jersey governor James McGreevey.
In sports history, Plainfield is the birthplace and/or home of several current and former athletes, including professionals and well-known amateurs. Included in their number are Milt Campbell, the 1956 Olympic Decathlon gold medalist (the first African-American to earn this title), Joe Black, the first African-American pitcher to win a World Series game, Jeff Torborg, former MLB player, coach and manager, and Vic Washington, NFL player.
Plainfield's history as a place to call home for the 19th and 20th century wealthy has led to a significant and preserved suburban architectural legacy. An influx of Wall Street money led to the creation of what was called Millionaires' Row in Plainfield after the opening of the railway in the 19th century.
There are numerous sites, including homes, parks, and districts in the city that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. While not listed, the Plainfield Armory, a prominent landmark completed in 1932, was sold by the state in 2013 as surplus property.
Plainfield's wealthy northeast corner, known as the "Sleepy Hollow" section of the city, was and still is characterized by its array of finely landscaped streets and neighborhoods with homes defined by a broad array of architectural styles, most built during the first half of the twentieth century. As one browses the tree-lines neighborhoods, it is obvious that the lot sizes vary, but the stateliness and distinction of each house is evident, whether a stately Queen Anne mansion or gingerbread cottage. Most lots are nicely landscaped and semi or fully private.
Plainfield was affected by the Plainfield Rebellion in July 1967. This civil disturbance occurred in the wake of the larger Newark riots. A Plainfield police officer was killed, about fifty people were injured, and several hundred thousand dollars of property was damaged by looting and arson. The New Jersey National Guard restored order after three days of unrest. This civil unrest caused a massive white flight, characterized by the percentage of black residents rising from 40% in 1970 to 60% a decade later.
Author and Plainfield native Isaiah Tremaine published Insurrection in 2017 as an mournful accounting of the Plainfield riots—and subsequent racial tensions at Plainfield High School—from his perspective as a black teenager living in the city with both white and black friends at the time. Prior to the rebellion, Plainfield was a regional shopping and entertainment center. Residents of nearby Union, Middlesex and Somerset counties would drive to shop and explore the business districts of Plainfield. Other than during the holidays, peak shopping times Plainfield were Thursday nights and Saturday, when Front Street and the areas around it bustled.
Plainfield had several entertainment venues at that time. At the peak, there were four operating movie theaters: the Strand, the Liberty, the Paramount and the Oxford theaters.
Manufacturers of heavy goods included Chelsea Fan Corp., Mack Truck and National Starch and Chemical Corp. Plainfield Iron and Metal maintained a large scrapyard in the West End.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city had a total area of 6.034 square miles (15.626 km2), including 6.023 square miles (15.599 km2) of land and 0.011 square miles (0.027 km2) of water (0.18%).
Unincorporated communities, localities and place names located partially or completely within the city include Netherwood.
The city is located in Central Jersey on the southwestern edge of Union County and is bordered by nine municipalities. Scotch Plains lies to the north and east, and Fanwood to the northeast. Bordered to the south are South Plainfield, and Piscataway. To the southwest lies Dunellen and to the southeast, Edison. All which are in Middlesex County. Green Brook Township lies to the northwest, North Plainfield lies to the north and Watchung borders to the northwest. All three of these municipalities are in Somerset County.
Plainfield is in the Raritan Valley, a line of cities in central New Jersey, and lies on the east side of the Raritan Valley along with Edison.
Plainfield has a humid continental climate, characterized by brisk to cold winters and hot, muggy summers. The lowest temperature ever recorded was −17 °F (−27 °C) on February 9, 1934, and the highest temperature ever recorded was 106 °F (41 °C) on July 10, 1936, and August 11, 1949. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Plainfield has a humid subtropical climate, which is abbreviated as "Cfa" on climate maps.
As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 49,808 people, 15,180 households, and 10,884 families residing in the city. The population density was 8,270.1 per square mile (3,193.1/km2). There were 16,621 housing units at an average density of 2,759.8 per square mile (1,065.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 23.54% (11,724) White, 50.20% (25,006) Black or African American, 0.91% (455) Native American, 0.95% (474) Asian, 0.05% (26) Pacific Islander, 20.13% (10,024) from other races, and 4.21% (2,099) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 40.37% (20,105) of the population.
There were 15,180 households out of which 35.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.9% were married couples living together, 24.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.3% were non-families. 21.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 7.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.23 and the average family size was 3.60.
In the city, the population was spread out with 25.8% under the age of 18, 10.5% from 18 to 24, 30.7% from 25 to 44, 23.5% from 45 to 64, and 9.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33.3 years. For every 100 females there were 101.3 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and older there were 100.4 males.
The Census Bureau's 2006–2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $52,056 (with a margin of error of +/- $3,048) and the median family income was $58,942 (+/- $4,261). Males had a median income of $33,306 (+/- $4,132) versus $37,265 (+/- $3,034) for females. The per capita income for the borough was $23,767 (+/- $1,013). About 12.2% of families and 16.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.5% of those under age 18 and 16.0% of those age 65 or over.
As of the 2000 United States Census of 2000, there were 47,829 people, 15,137 households, and 10,898 families residing in the city. The population density was 7,921.7 people per square mile (3,057.4/km2). There were 16,180 housing units at an average density of 2,679.8 per square mile (1,034.3/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 21.45% White, 61.78% African American, 0.41% Native American, 0.93% Asian, 0.10% Pacific Islander, 10.78% from other races, and 4.55% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 25.16% of the population.
There were 15,137 households out of which 35.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.3% were married couples living together, 24.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.0% were non-families. 21.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.10 and the average family size was 3.49.
In the city the population was spread out with 27.5% under the age of 18, 10.2% from 18 to 24, 32.6% from 25 to 44, 20.5% from 45 to 64, and 9.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 95.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.2 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $46,683, and the median income for a family was $50,774. Males had a median income of $33,460 versus $30,408 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,052. About 12.2% of families and 15.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 21.3% of those under age 18 and 12.6% of those age 65 or over.
Portions of Plainfield are part of an Urban Enterprise Zone. In addition to other benefits to encourage employment within the Zone, shoppers can take advantage of a reduced 3½% sales tax rate (versus the 7% rate charged statewide) at eligible merchants.
Downtown Plainfield has two historic commercial districts: the North Avenue Historic District and the Civic Historic District. Both are on the Registry of Historic Places.
Events such as the Christmas Tree Lighting, the Queen City 5k, Fire Safety Fair, and Mayor's Wellness Walk take place in the Downtown each year.
Downtown Plainfield Alliance (DPA) is a "nonpolitical, nonprofit grassroots group that supports the improvement of Downtown Plainfield through beautification, volunteerism, economic development, marketing, community development, and activism."
A map to historical districts in Plainfield NJ is available online.
The restoration of large 19th century-era Plainfield estates to their original glory, such as the Craig Marsh home, has been featured in various home design coverage.
While the more affluent eastern part of the city has been relatively integrated over the decades, with both black and white upper-middle-class-to-wealthy families, the West End of Plainfield is the historically middle-class and working-class black district in the city and features a close-knit African-American community.
Part of the West End is known to locals as Soulville.
Mount Olive Baptist Church has been serving the West End as a community of faith since 1870. It is considered Plainfield's first black church. As the black community grew in Plainfield, other congregations branched off from Mount Olive.
Calvary Baptist Church began in 1897 among a group of black congregants from Mount Olive, and celebrated its 120th anniversary in 2017 with a series of events.
Nearby, Shiloh Baptist Church was founded in 1908, also by Mount Olive congregants, and offers many faith-based events to the community, including its Jazz for Jesus program.
The West End has been eyed recently for redevelopment.
The White Star, a diner in the West End on West Front Street near Green Brook Park, has been an area meeting spot and landmark for over half a century.
The West End has grown more Latin in recent years. As of the 2010 census, 40% of all people living in Plainfield were of Hispanic origin. This was up from 25% ten years earlier.
In his book Insurrection, Isaiah Tremaine, an Afro-American Plainfield native, credits the influx of Latinos for breathing new life and energy into a city hurting from racism and racial strife in the 1970s.
A sizable and diverse LGBTQ community contributes to the long-time perception of Plainfield as a stronghold of gay life and gay community in the suburbs of New Jersey.
Plainfield has one of the highest percentage of same-sex householders in the state of New Jersey. The First Unitarian Society of Plainfield, the oldest such congregation in the US, is certified as LGBTQ welcoming.
In 1986, the New York Times reported on what was termed at the time as the "growing homosexual population in Plainfield" drawn to the stock of aging Victorian, Tudor and colonial homes, and featured interviews with various gay men who lived in Plainfield and worked in Manhattan.
One of the Queen City's elected leaders, Councilwoman Rebecca Williams, is openly lesbian and the city honored its LGBT community at a flag-raising commemorating the victims of the Pulse Orlando massacre during Pride Month.
Plainfield has also been recently described as part of some newly formed Catholic gay outreach, ministry, and acceptance efforts in New Jersey.
In 2015, an openly gay Plainfielder ran for state Assemblyman.
Plainfield has been home to openly gay former New Jersey governor James McGreevey and his longtime partner, an Australian-American business executive.
Plainfield is also at the center of gay life in Union County, which hosts LGBTQ family events and opened the state's first county-wide office of LGBTQ services in 2018.
Plainfield media includes:
As of 2017, local media in New Jersey has undergone dramatic shrinkage.
Plainfield Plaintalker (2005–2010) and Plaintalker II (2010–2017) were two local blogs published by longtime local reporter Bernice Paglia.
From 1961 to 1997, Plainfield was home to WERA at 1590 on the AM dial with studios at 120 West 7th Street.
Houses of worship include:
Plainfield is governed under a Special Charter granted by the New Jersey Legislature by a mayor and a seven-member City Council, all of whom serve four-year terms in office. There are four wards, with one ward seat up for election each year. There are three at-large seats: one from the First and Fourth Wards; one from the Second and Third Wards; and one from the City as a whole. The three at-large seats and mayoral seat operate in a four-year cycle, with one seat up for election each year.
As of 2016, the Mayor of the City of Plainfield is Democrat Adrian O. Mapp, whose term of office ends December 31, 2017. Members of the Plainfield City Council are Council President Cory Storch (Ward 2; D, 2019), Tracey L. Brown (At Large All Wards; D, 2016), Barry N. Goode (At Large Wards 1 and 4; D, 2019), Bridget B. Rivers (Ward 4; D, 2017), Gloria Taylor (Ward 3; D, 2016, serving an unexpired term), Diane Toliver (Ward 1; D, 2018) and Rebecca Williams (At Large Wards 2 and 3; D, 2018).
Gloria Taylor was appointed in January 2014 to fill the council seat expiring in December 2016 of Adrian Mapp who resigned to take office as mayor. Taylor served on an interim basis until the November 2014 general election, when she was elected to serve the balance of the term of office.
Plainfield is located in the 12th Congressional District and is part of New Jersey's 22nd state legislative district. Prior to the 2010 Census, Plainfield had been part of the 6th Congressional District, a change made by the New Jersey Redistricting Commission that took effect in January 2013, based on the results of the November 2012 general elections.
New Jersey's Twelfth Congressional District is represented by Bonnie Watson Coleman (D, Ewing Township). New Jersey is represented in the United States Senate by Democrats Cory Booker (Newark, term ends 2021) and Bob Menendez (Paramus, 2019).
For the 2018–2019 session (Senate, General Assembly), the 22nd Legislative District of the New Jersey Legislature is represented in the State Senate by Nicholas Scutari (D, Linden) and in the General Assembly by Jerry Green (D, Plainfield) and James J. Kennedy (D, Rahway). The Governor of New Jersey is Phil Murphy (D, Middletown Township). The Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey is Sheila Oliver (D, East Orange).
Union County is governed by a Board of Chosen Freeholders, whose nine members are elected at-large to three-year terms of office on a staggered basis with three seats coming up for election each year, with an appointed County Manager overseeing the day-to-day operations of the county. At an annual reorganization meeting held in the beginning of January, the board selects a Chairman and Vice Chairman from among its members. As of 2014, Union County's Freeholders are Chairman Christopher Hudak (D, Linden, term ends December 31, 2014), Vice Chairman Mohamed S. Jalloh (D, Roselle, 2015), Bruce Bergen (D, Springfield Township, 2015), Linda Carter (D, Plainfield, 2016), Angel G. Estrada (D, Elizabeth, 2014), Sergio Granados (D, Elizabeth, 2016) Bette Jane Kowalski (D, Cranford, 2016), Alexander Mirabella (D, Fanwood, 2015) and Vernell Wright (D, Union, 2014). Constitutional officers elected on a countywide basis are County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi (D, Union, 2015), Sheriff Ralph Froehlich (D, Union, 2016) and Surrogate James S. LaCorte (D, Springfield Township, 2014). The County Manager is Alfred Faella.
As of March 23, 2011, there were a total of 20,722 registered voters in Plainfield, of which 12,078 (58.3% vs. 41.8% countywide) were registered as Democrats, 947 (4.6% vs. 15.3%) were registered as Republicans and 7,693 (37.1% vs. 42.9%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There were 4 voters registered to other parties. Among the city's 2010 Census population, 41.6% (vs. 53.3% in Union County) were registered to vote, including 56.1% of those ages 18 and over (vs. 70.6% countywide).
In the 2012 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 14,640 votes (93.3% vs. 66.0% countywide), ahead of Republican Mitt Romney with 909 votes (5.8% vs. 32.3%) and other candidates with 46 votes (0.3% vs. 0.8%), among the 15,683 ballots cast by the city's 22,555 registered voters, for a turnout of 69.5% (vs. 68.8% in Union County). In the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 15,280 votes (92.3% vs. 63.1% countywide), ahead of Republican John McCain with 1,110 votes (6.7% vs. 35.2%) and other candidates with 56 votes (0.3% vs. 0.9%), among the 16,548 ballots cast by the city's 22,516 registered voters, for a turnout of 73.5% (vs. 74.7% in Union County). In the 2004 presidential election, Democrat John Kerry received 11,508 votes (85.4% vs. 58.3% countywide), ahead of Republican George W. Bush with 1,773 votes (13.2% vs. 40.3%) and other candidates with 88 votes (0.7% vs. 0.7%), among the 13,480 ballots cast by the city's 20,445 registered voters, for a turnout of 65.9% (vs. 72.3% in the whole county).
In the 2013 gubernatorial election, Democrat Barbara Buono received 75.9% of the vote (5,757 cast), ahead of Republican Chris Christie with 22.7% (1,723 votes), and other candidates with 1.4% (104 votes), among the 8,174 ballots cast by the city's 21,996 registered voters (590 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 37.2%. In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Democrat Jon Corzine received 7,140 ballots cast (81.3% vs. 50.6% countywide), ahead of Republican Chris Christie with 1,057 votes (12.0% vs. 41.7%), Independent Chris Daggett with 355 votes (4.0% vs. 5.9%) and other candidates with 84 votes (1.0% vs. 0.8%), among the 8,786 ballots cast by the city's 21,738 registered voters, yielding a 40.4% turnout (vs. 46.5% in the county).
The Plainfield Public School District serves students in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade. The district is one of 31 former Abbott districts statewide, which are now referred to as "SDA Districts" based on the requirement for the state to cover all costs for school building and renovation projects in these districts under the supervision of the New Jersey Schools Development Authority.
As of the 2011–12 school year, the district's 15 schools had an enrollment of 6,407 students and 501.0 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 12.79:1. Schools in the district (with 2011–12 enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics) are DeWitt D. Barlow Elementary School (334; K-5), Cedarbrook Elementary School (576; K-8), Clinton Elementary School (335; K-8), Frederic W. Cook Elementary School (264; K-7), Emerson Community School (483; K-5), Evergreen Elementary School (555; K-5), Jefferson Elementary School (395; K-5), Charles H. Stillman Elementary School (280; K-5), Washington Community School (585; PreK-5), Woodland Elementary School (252; K-5), Hubbard Middle School (324; 6-8), Maxson Middle School (314; 6-8), Plainfield High School (1,367; 9-12), Barack Obama Academy for Academic & Civic Development (79; 9-12) and Plainfield Academy for the Arts and Advanced Studies (237; 7-12).
The district's main high school was the 318th-ranked public high school in New Jersey out of 339 schools statewide in New Jersey Monthly magazine's September 2014 cover story on the state's "Top Public High Schools", using a new ranking methodology. The school had been ranked 280th in the state of 328 schools in 2012, after being ranked 307th in 2010 out of 322 schools listed. The school was removed in 2009 from the list of persistently dangerous schools in New Jersey.
Plainfield is also home to New Jersey's first high school focused on sustainability, the Barack Obama Green Charter High School.
Established in 1984, Koinonia Academy moved to Plainfield in 1997, where it serves students in PreK through twelfth grades and operates under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark.
Union County College, a community college headquartered in nearby Cranford, maintains a campus in downtown Plainfield.
As of May 2010, the city had a total of 101.79 miles (163.82 km) of roadways, of which 87.58 miles (140.95 km) were maintained by the municipality, 14.21 miles (22.87 km) by Union County.
Plainfield is one of the few large suburban cities in central New Jersey to have no federal highway within it. The only major thoroughfare through Plainfield is U.S. Route 22, connecting Easton, Pennsylvania with Newark and U.S. Route 1/9. Route 22, a mecca for highway shopping and dining, is accessible from Plainfield through North Plainfield, Dunellen and Fanwood. In the early 1960s, Interstate highways were completed near, but not through Plainfield. Interstate 287 is accessible through South Plainfield and Piscataway, while Interstate 78 is accessible through Watchung / Warren Township and neighboring communities. The busiest connecting thoroughfares in Plainfield are Park Avenue (north-south), traversing from U.S. 22 to and into South Plainfield and Edison; Front Street (east-west), connecting Scotch Plains with Dunellen; South Avenue and 7th Street, both of which parallel Front Street, connecting Scotch Plains/Fanwood with Piscataway, South Plainfield and the Middlesex County border.
Plainfield has two NJ Transit rail stations on the Raritan Valley Line, formerly the mainline of the Central Railroad of New Jersey. The main Plainfield station is in the downtown and a second, smaller Netherwood station is in the Netherwood section, east of downtown and within a mile of the Fanwood border. A third station, located in the west end of town, was closed long ago. The New Brunswick train station is approximately 15 minutes away.
The Central Railroad of New Jersey first offered service to Plainfield in 1839. At the height of popularity, the Plainfield "Jersey Central" train station, with its main station building constructed in 1902, was a hub for commuting to Newark and New York. (The Central Railroad of New Jersey terminal was in Jersey City, where ferries would take the rail passengers to New York City.) The station was located near the main post office and downtown stores. The station was serviced by the now defunct Railway Express postal carrier company.
NJ Transit provides bus service on the 113 and 114 to and from the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan; the 59, 65 and 66 (Limited) to Newark; and local service on the 819 and 822 routes.
In years past, Plainfield was serviced by the Somerset Bus Company with service from Union County to Essex and New York City, the Public Service Bus Company with similar service and Plainfield Transit, providing local service.
Newark Liberty International Airport is approximately 30 minutes away. A proposed PATH train extension to Plainfield in the 1970s, with stops at the airport and at Elizabeth, was canceled in 1976.
Solaris Health System, a nonprofit company which owns Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center, a hospital in Plainfield, asked for permission to close the hospital. This request has been opposed by People's Organization for Progress, an advocacy group based in Newark, New Jersey. The closing has been attributed to the large number of uninsured patients served by the hospital.
At the height of popularity in the 1950s through the 1970s, Plainfield was a hub for medical practices. Park Avenue was lined with doctors and medical offices and was nicknamed "Doctors Row".
Plainfield Teacher's College was a mythical institution created as a hoax by a duo of college football fans in 1941. The phony college's equally nonexistent football team had its scores carried by major newspapers including The New York Times before the hoax was discovered.
People who were born in, residents of, or otherwise closely associated with Plainfield include:
Media related to Plainfield, New Jersey at Wikimedia Commons
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