Last fall, a letter from JFK with its proposal (reproduced at left) was sent to each of us on the day of our September 9, 2013 council meeting--it was the exact same proposal they have been pushing for a few years now. The proposal was for the council to pass a rezoning ordinance to have a density of 65 units per acre on the campus--the now-notorious 660 "luxury" apartments to be built on the site. (Note: Right now, I think the zoning for that area allows for 12 units per acre--which fits in with the general density of that area.)
I will remind you that, last year, some representatives of a clergy group came before the city council and wrote an op-ed piece (click here) stating that they had had, for "...more than a year..." hosted community meetings to discuss the hospital and the city's health care needs. They insisted that the council accept JFK's proposal before the corporation closed the emergency room and left town for good. Once again, no one in the Plainfield community seems to have been made aware of these meetings, either. As a councilwoman who sits on the Muhlenberg advisory group and whose constituents are members of the congregations of the clergy group--I was not made aware, either.
The dire warning was that if we didn't accede to JFK's wishes, we would lose the emergency room for good! Presumably, this is what JFK was telling this small group of clergy members. In my reasoned opinion, it is inconceivable that JFK would do so--if the emergency room were to close, where would they get their feeder patients from to prop up JFK's profits? If not from Plainfield and the surrounding areas, where would these patients come from? Forgive my cynicism, but I am convinced that JFK is once again trying to frighten our community with these warnings by preying upon the real concerns of our residents, and that is unconscionable. I cannot imagine that they would just close the emergency room and lose the thousands of potential patients that they send to JFK each year--ridiculous.
When folks discuss their concerns tonight at the first community meeting, I hope that they will closely examine a bill that was introduced by Jerry Green into the Assembly--A3043--which "Allows corporation business tax or gross income tax credits to developers for certain capital investments for repurposing qualified health care facilities."
The bill was originally introduced in June of 2012, but there were some changes and additions in June of 2013. Here is the link to the latest version: A3043. Please read the bill carefully, as there are provisions in it that I find troubling. I will just highlight one of them, from Section 3, a. (1) of the bill:
The 1non-acute1 health care and health support services components of the repurposed facility shall comprise no less than 50 percent of the net leasable space of the repurposed facility, provided however that the 50 percent requirement may be waived by the authority if the requirement is not economically feasible or if the inclusion of further non-health care and non-health support services elements would improve the utilization and development of the health care and health support services components. To be eligible for any tax credits authorized under this section, a developer shall demonstrate to the authority, at the time of application, that the State's financial support of the proposed capital investment in a qualified health care facility will 1not destabilize the supply and delivery of acute care health services in its market,1 will yield a net positive benefit to the State and local government, and, through a project pro forma analysis at the time of application, that the repurposing of the qualified health care facility is likely to be realized with the provision of tax credits at the level requested but is not likely to be accomplished by private enterprise without the tax credits.
This idea of the 50% requirement being "waived" if it is not so-called "economically feasible" leaves the door WIDE OPEN for waivers for other uses. The second part of that sentence states the the 50% requirement may also be waived if "the inclusion of further non-health care and non-health support services would improve the utilization and development of the health care and health support services components." That seems to say that including non-health care services could potentially IMPROVE health care services. Huh? So, theoretically, a commercial business--say, a beauty supply store or a 660-unit residential building could be viewed as "improving" the utilization and development of health care services? The language is extremely broad and vague--this is what troubles me.
The other part of the bill states that the "...a developer will demonstrate [...] that the proposed capital investment in a qualified health care facility will not destabilize the supply and delivery of acute health care services in its market...." This part of the bill (which was added to the 2013 version) is puzzling. The word "destabilize" suggests that whatever is developed cannot compete with JFK--also known as the "market."
It also tells me that there is no way that JFK would seriously consider closing the ER. Again, where would they get the patients (the "supply") from to cart off to Edison (the "market"), if not from Plainfield, North Plainfield, and other surrounding areas?
Two weeks ago, Jerry Green said that he had a developer interested in the Muhlenberg campus--I am assuming that this is a "Medical Mall" type of developer, with a proposal to expand medical services on the Muhlenberg campus, which is what the community has said that it wants. The community has also rejected the 65-units per acre density that JFK has been pushing. The community wants medical services. Anything less than that would be a travesty and a betrayal.
I hope that folks will come out to this first community meeting--please make your voice heard--as your representative, I will be there as well.