Blog for Highland Park

Welcome to the Blog for Highland Park, a weblog chronicling events in Highland Park, NJ from an alternative perspective to the often one-sided slant of the official borough newsletter.

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Location: Highland Park, New Jersey, United States

I am a freelance writer and community activist who has worked on many progressive and Democratic political campaigns over the last 25 plus years and a lifelong resident of Highland Park, NJ. I have a BA in Journalism from Rutgers University, an MA in Middle East Studies from Harvard University, and an MEd in English Education from Rutgers Graduate School of Education. An enthusiastic amateur astronomer, I have just completed Swinburne University Astronomy Online's Graduate Certificate of Science in astronomy and am pursuing a Masters of Science in astronomy at Swinburne. I am also an actress with experience in theatre and film and have written a full length play. I am currently working full time on a book "The Little Planet That Would Not Die: Pluto's Story."

Monday, September 15, 2008

Help Me Fundraise for Obama Environment Event

Following the example of John Edwards, my first choice in the upcoming presidential election, I am supporting the Obama/Biden ticket as this country's best choice for real change in economic policy, health care, foreign policy, and environmental issues.

Having spent two decades as an environmental activist, I am especially concerned with vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's support for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as well as her promotion of aerial hunting of wolves and polar bears. These positions clearly illustrate she is on the wrong track when it comes to making the hard choices in fighting global climate change and habitat loss as well as cleaning up our air, land, and water.

My experience as an environmental leader includes 11 years on the Highland Park Environmental Commission, nearly three years as a gubernatorial appointee on the state Natural Areas Council, membership in the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions (ANJEC), the New Jersey Environmental Lobby, and Environment New Jersey. In 2005, I took part in ANJEC's inaugural Environmental Leadership Training Program, and in 2007, I completed the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Environmental Stewardship class, a six-month program.

I've done these things because of a genuine love of nature and our environment and growing concern that we are not making the changes necessary to reverse the impact of 150+ years of environmental abuse through greenhouse gas emissions. It's scary to remember President Carter talking in the late '70s about how we need to switch to renewable energy sources; to remember Time magazine declaring Earth as "Planet of the Year" in 1988, the hottest year then to date, the one of the garbage barge and hospital waste washing up on our beaches; to remember 1998, trumping its predecessor of ten years as the hottest year on record.

In all this time, we've seen talk but the only action that happened was steps in the wrong direction. Not only did we lose 30 years in which we could have made a difference; during that time, we saw climate change accelerate with terrifying rapidity.

Yet we have to assume the world has not reached that crucial "tipping point" after which the damage we will have inflicted will be too great to undo.

That is why I am asking all who are concerned about the environment to please consider helping me raise enough money to co-host a fundraiser titled "Obama for the Environment," which will be held on Monday, October 6 at the George Street Playhouse, 9 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ (near the corner of Livingston Avenue and George Street). Support Obama/Biden and hear presentations from environmental leaders such as Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (named by Time magazine as one of the Heroes for the Planet) and Dr. Michael Oppenheimer (member of
the Nobel Prize Winning Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change). The presentations will begin at approximately 8 PM. The minimum contribution to attend is $100. For those interested, there will be a pre-reception at 7 PM; participation in the pre-reception requires a minimum contribution of $500. Donations can be made by check or credit card. If you're writing out a check, make it out to "Obama for
America" and mail it to c/o Joshua Haimson, 325 Raritan Avenue, Highland Park, NJ 08904. If you choose to use a credit card, go to

to make the donation. After making a pledge, please click on "Fulfill your pledge" and make your donation on-line. If anyone has questions about donation procedures, please email Joshua at or call him at 732-740-1238.

If you do decide to donate, either by check or credit card and feel so inclined, please note that your donation was solicited by me, Laurel Kornfeld. You will get full credit for your donation and will also help me raise the minimum of $1,000, which I seek to do in order to qualify as a co-host of this event.

This event is a joint effort by many people, but I have a strong attachment to it, due to my intense environmental concerns, that makes it feel like "my baby." Thank you in advance to anyone who lends support. If there are any questions, I can be reached at, at (732) 985-6878 or at (908) 208-2531.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Demolition Double Standard

Last week, the YM-YWHA building at 2 South Adelaide Avenue, a partially-historic site and one with which many borough and regional residents have had long ties, was demolished by the developer who purchased the property from the Y.

The Y's demolition constitutes a tremendously personal loss to me. That building had been like a second home to me since my family and I moved to Highland Park in 1969. There I learned to swim and do gymnastics, had art classes, took part in numerous community activities, made friends and also made countless memories.

Established in 1955, the Y built an addition onto the historic Meyer-Rice mansion, which dated back to the turn of the last century and sat on the site of a colonial encampment during the Revoutionary War.

What is interesting is the complete silence from the historic preservation community in Highland Park. What is even more interesting is the stark contrast with the historic preservation community's reaction to the tearing down of another historic home, the Brody House on Raritan Avenue, ten years ago.

At that time, members of the Highland Park Historical Society rallied and lobbied hard to save the Brody House, which was built in 1917 and had been abandoned for ten years. It too was privately owned, and the decision to demolish the home was made solely by the private owners.

In spite of this being solely a decision by the owners of the property, members of the Historical Society jumped upon this issue, falsely claiming that then-Mayor Polos asked the owners to tear it down and using the demolition as a springboard to advocate that Polos be replaced with their candidate of choice, Meryl Frank. The reality that neither Polos nor anyone in the administration at the time asked for the demolition or had any say in its being done mattered little to those who obviously intended to use the Brody House to further their own political agenda.

Fast forward nearly a decade. Where is the Historical Society now? The answer is, dormant and inactive. It doesn't matter that the Meyer-Rice House was older than the Brody House and in better condition or that the Y had a public history in Highland Park.

It doesn't even phase some people that the borough had a chance to save this building when Middlesex County offered to purchase a portion of the land for open space, thus rendering the Y less dependent on developers' funds if they chose to renovate the building, yet turned this offer down. Why did the mayor not respond to the county's offer, insisting that only the Y itself could do that? Why didn't the borough take the lead in trying to bring about an agreement to save this historic site? Could it be because the offer of county funds came from former mayor and now Freeholder Polos?

The double standard in the strong reaction to the demolition of the Brody House in 1998 and the non-reaction to the demolition of the Meyer-Rice House in 2008 is glaring and raises serious questions about the intentions and credibility of the historic preservation community here in Highland Park. Is their purpose to preserve local historic sites, or is it to elect Meryl Frank and keep her in power? These are two very different goals, and many, including myself, support the former but not the latter.

Why did the Historical Society become dormant within a few years of Frank's election? Why is the borough's official Historic Preservation Committee completely inactive?

The people of this town, especially those who want to preserve our history rather than the rule of one particular clique, deserve answers.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Meryl Frank, Stop Lying!

My goal in starting this blog three years ago was and today remains presenting an alternative perspective from that of the current administration on the political scene and public policy in Highland Park. I really want to stick to the issues and not get personal, but when the mayor and her supporters falsely, via the Internet and word of mouth, attempt to criminalize me and my record of public service, which they are still doing to this day, the truth must be told.

It has always been a tactic of those in power to demonize their opponents with broad brush denigrations such as labeling them “crazy,” “extremist,” “fringe,” or “stupid.” From the beginning, Meryl Frank has targeted me this way solely because I opposed her candidacy for mayor and her vision for our town.

In 2001, she told a reporter that “Laurel has a past, and I know what it is.” Beyond my having spent some time on this planet, the implication that I somehow have skeletons in my closet or something to be ashamed of is blatantly false. Yes, I have acted since childhood and have done many low budget horror films, including many with next to no plot, but that is not a crime or something to be embarrassed about. There is no past whatsoever that would negatively impact my ability to serve this town.

The mayor and her supporters, over the last year and a half, have falsely attempted to portray me as someone with a criminal record, claiming there was a restraining order against me approaching her or her family. This is blatantly false. A restraining order must be issued in a court via a judge. No such restraining order was ever issued against me at any time. This can be verified with the Highland Park Police Department.

Their claim regarding the non-existent restraining order is based an even worse false accusation, that I somehow threatened the mayor or anyone with bodily harm. This is another lie, and a most vicious one. The only “threat” I have ever made was a political one regarding future campaigns. Some people may have been dissatisfied with the disturbing issues the 2007 mayoral race brought to light regarding possible corruption in this administration. I do not regret raising these questions and have made it clear that I will do so again, even more forcefully, during future elections. That is the one and only “threat” that ever came from my mouth. I fight with words and words alone, and never, ever would threaten to inflict bodily harm on anyone, much less even think of doing so. Spreading this lie constitutes a convenient but ugly pre-emptive attack on any future candidacy of mine for public office.

Contrary to yet another lie repeatedly spread by the mayor and her political machine, I have never, ever suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder or from any other mental illness. Passion, intensity, and quirkiness are not diseases, and it is shameful for a public official to attempt to twist these character traits into something sick that simply is not there. Call me a “diva,” a “drama queen,” a “character,” etc., but do not shamelessly lie about the state of my health.

I am a very happy, lucky, idealistic and yes, passionate person, a proud non-conformist who believes everyone should follow his or her own convictions in life rather than do what society expects. The choices I have made, such as staying single, are conscious and voluntary. I have never been bitter over any elections in which I ran, in spite of the repeated accusations of this by the mayor and her supporters. I am proud of the 42 percent I received in my 2005 council primary and am not angry over the outcome of a legitimate election. I’m a person who looks ahead, not behind. What I take issue with are the meanspiritedness, the name calling, the false rumors, and the attempts to criminalize me for no reason other than my desire to serve this town.

I realize that too often, this meanspiritedness is part and parcel of the political process, both here in New Jersey and nationwide. What a disservice to democracy. It is one thing to bring to light questionable actions and policies of an elected official. It is quite another to rest one’s entire campaign against the opposition on unfounded, baseless personal attacks.

That’s why I’m trying to set the record straight, even after all these months. Like any concerned citizen, I plan to continue being involved in public service and the political process here in Highland Park for a long, long time. I will respond when lies are told about me, but I will never, ever be intimidated from public participation.