Poverty Rate at 30% for Part of Montclair’s 4th Ward


WNYC, our media partner in the newly formed NJ News Coop, has created a “Pinpointing Poverty” map based on just-released statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Zooming in, the poverty map shows a bright pink box in Census tract 171, in Montclair’s 4th Ward, where 32 percent of households are at the poverty level. Though it is hard to see the street names on this map detail, it is basically the area bounded by Elm Street, Bloomfield Ave., Franklin Place and Lincoln St. Across Bloomfield Ave., also in the 4th ward, in Census tract 167, an area extending between Bloomfield Ave. to Walnut Street, the poverty rate is 11.8 percent

“If you look at Montclair, there’s always been an uneven balance of where wealth is,” says Tom Reynolds, president of the Montclair NAACP. “It’s almost been a dirty little secret,” he said, that the 4th ward has such extensive poverty.

Reynolds said one solution to rebalancing the poverty disparity in Montclair is to encourage affordable housing in other wards. “There shouldn’t be such a fear of having affording housing on the Wildwood property,” he said. “There should be a balance.” This summer, a controversial proposal to put affordable housing on two empty lots on Wildwood Ave., in Montclair’s 1st ward, was endorsed by the Montclair Council.

But 1st ward councilor Rich Murnick, who was absent from the meeting where the Wildwood project was approved, plans to introduce a resolution at the next council meeting to reverse that decision. Since July, the four lots on that street — including the two earmarked for affordable housing — appraised at $350,000 apiece, he says. “Given the value they came in, it would be a tragedy if we gave away the property just to bring affordable housing to the first ward,” Murnick said.

He added that he’s all for affordable housing, and spreading it around, but that there are better choices in Upper Montclair, including this Oakcroft Ave. house listed at $179,000.

Fourth ward councilor Renee Baskerville did not return our call.


  1. If the town is selling the Wildwood property because it’s strapped for cash, that property can command top dollar because of it’s location (next to a park on a residential street) and because there is a lack of any empty lots for developers in that part of town. Probably all of the town. The town shouldn’t be selling at a discount in an already discounted market. Also, that property is not close to public transportation, nor is it walkable to shopping.

    More suitable locations would be closer to the Upper Montclair business district – wasn’t that Time Warner building going to be torn down for apartments, or has that developer backed out? And what about the Label Street property that was practically given away to Plofker who is building an apartment building there – are any of those designated for affordable housing?
    That property is close to the train station, the bus and the downtown shopping district.

    Lastly, spreading the poverty around isn’t going to end it. Owning is single family home is a very expensive undertaking after a few years when major repairs need so wouldn’t it make more sense to comply within multi-unit buildings?

    And for those who will claim NIMBY, I don’t live near Wildwood. I do live within a few blocks of the UM shopping area. And there are plenty of multi-family homes around there too.

  2. I don’t think Montclair has a ‘dirty little secret’. Just simple economics. Some people just can’t afford to live in certain areas. Herb can’t afford a home in Far Hills, doesn’t mean a farm needs to be subdivided so I can afford a place.

  3. lets be fair. I dont think anyone cries nimby at the prospect of lower income earners or affordable housing per se. Can we export just those aspects of the 4th ward and leave the crime and rampant drug (trafficking) problem where it is?

  4. Has anyone been to this area recently? I have because I live there. The area is full of crime and grime. Anyone who reads the police blotter knows that more drug arrests are made in this area than all other areas of Montclair combined. The area is filled with trash and homes that have fallen deep into disrepair. It is a dangerous area to walk around alone in during the day, let alone at night. I wish it didn’t exist at all. It would make me and my family feel much safer and allow us to walk the area without the fear of being robbed or offered drugs.

    I am not sure why anyone would want to invite that element into their neighborhood in the name of diversity. It would only serve to further drive down property values. Essex County is plenty diverse without having to inject into all areas. If you feel you need to get a feeling for how those below the poverty line live, then travel down Bloomfield Avenue a bit.

  5. Does diluting the concentration of poverty do anything to reduce it? Moving poor people to another location would simply make them less noticeable and easier to police. Perhaps that’s the goal.

  6. I dont think anyone cries nimby at the prospect of lower income earners or affordable housing per se.

    Where have you been living?

  7. The dirty little secret of Montclair is the normalcy and pattern of chronic and toxic mismanagement in almost every form, from education to infrastructure.How much did Bullock school REALLY cost?How much will South Park Plaza renov REALLY cost and why is that more important than other priorities?What happened to developers who walked after being kept waiting for decision-makers to stop talking and start moving forward?!!Those million dollar mistakes are what drive the taxes through the roof, not benefits for the school aides or costs to run a library. The cost benefit anaylsis of living here is no longer viable to attract the diverse population from the arts, media, and even finance,that made us a “destination” town. Zero tolerance of mismanagement is a must to infuse our population and real estate market with affordable housing for the individuals and families that will return more to the community than the tax breaks they are given. Honestly, how affordable is a town where a microscopic money pit has taxes bordering 9K for 2010?

  8. Well said, thinkoutsidethebox. We can make all the noise we want about providing “affordable” housing in every part of town but if even the lowest cost housing has a high tax bill it’s not going to do much. I’m curious about the percentage of owner versus renter in that ward. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the percentage of renters is higher in that ward than in any other which would mean that it’s pretty difficult for a lower income family to “afford” to buy anything in this town, in any ward.

  9. “How much will South Park Plaza renov REALLY cost?”

    This TOTALLY ridiculous project and situation MUST be stopped!

    The Bullock School is a USELESS mistake.

  10. So Park Plaza just a screen to divert attention away from the REAL issues, again, mismanagement….look at the empty retail outlets and the two-page police blotter. I’ll tell the decision makers what I tell my kids, “do your homework first, then play”. I live in the fourth ward and am lucky to know it’s the best kept secret in town, and not a dirty little secret at that. Many of Montclair’s “old” families living in multi-generational homes in addition to border homes and multi-family and standard apts., the salt of the earth of this town lives here. Let’s hope the Charles Bierman property developers use this opportunity to develop in a sustainable and appropriate manner.

  11. I feel bad for the homeowners who live right there this will drag down the value of their already depressed investments — this is unbelievable that the dumbos in power would approve this. We need more tax revenue I thought, not more handouts so the council can feel good that they have allowed underprivileged people to live in a more desirable part of town!!!! Isn’t this how Fannie & Freddy got into trouble?? The government mandating banks HAD to loan to people who couldn’t afford to buy homes. Stop meddling in the free market — this is the most bass akwards idea I have ever heard. They have to overturn this. And I agree with the point, I can’t afford to live on Upper Mountain — should the town step in and give me a subsidy?? What kind of crap is this?

  12. Excellent conversation here and I thank the posters! Even Frankgg as I am now reconsidering South Park.

    A basic task of the Town Council and Administration MUST be an ability to keep track of how much we spend, and on what we spend it. Another is services and I still drive around and see piles of trees throughout town, six weeks after the storm.

    At the Tuesday Council Meeting I questioned the Manager regarding the Capital spending bill when the numbers just didn’t add up and questions like “Are we buying ONE or TWO refuse trucks,” or “Why are we considering buying ANY” couldn’t be answered.

    Borrowing is going crazy (we’re adding $14MM just THIS year) and the Mayor is REFUSING to let an outside group even TALK about what’s going on?

    But the simple fact of the matter is that rising expenses, and declining revenues, spell disaster. And we aren’t going to solve the problem by trimming pennies here and there.

  13. The Eastern-ish edge of the two highlighted sections appears to be a (fairly crude) attempt to represent the border with GR – It’s not exactly correct, but it’s close. (The Feds never worry about getting the Municipal borders exact).

  14. Cary, I’m not clear on why you or anyone was EVER in favor of the Park St. boondoggle, especially in our current budgetary quagmire. Glad you’re rethinking it, but is it too late? What can citizens do to change the council’s mind and get this crazy project canceled?

  15. Some of the most beautiful houses and most historic properties in town are in the 4th Ward. I believe that the Montclair Chapter of the NAACP was founded at the Darden Estate on Orange Road. The Washington Street YMCA was the second in the USA and Langston Hughes came to read poetry to the children, as well as many other Harlem Rennaissance figures, invited by Hortence Tate the director of the Montclair YWCA that was housed in the Israel Crane House, before it was moved from its original site on Glenridge Avenue. Frankgg was born on Washington St at st Vincents!!!!

  16. Montclair has always been two towns- hence me continuing to point out this dumbness by insisting on capitalizing UPPER. But what is the historic figure of poverty? 30% is a shocking figure. And whether it has always been at or near that number is, ultimately not important. But I would find the information instructive.

    Also, Black folks have suffered TREMENDOUSLY under this President and his policies– (and while I don’t support the Occupy movement, the question of who is helping Main St. is still unanswered)– Black unemployment is at its highest in almost 30 years, so I guess it follows that poverty is too.

    To this, All Things Considered ran a great story on how much the Black Middle class in Atlanta (HOT-Lanta!) is hurting (https://www.npr.org/2011/12/08/143378702/black-atlantans-struggle-to-stay-in-the-middle-class).

    But still, here. In our lovely Community, many folks are hurting.

    That gives me pause…..

  17. Finally, the Prof gives pause! At least until Newt is in the White House, then all will be right with the world of the UPPER.

  18. I am now reconsidering South Park.

    However much I loathe ROC and everything he stands for, he called this one right from the git go. He nailed the m’f*cker.

  19. I have to say it’s a rare instance in which I agree with Prof. I listened to the same NPR show, and it resonates. And I lived on North Willow Street for 10 years, and the poverty and class dichotomy does not surprise.

  20. @PAZ Considering Obama’s failure to address this (some might argue fairly, that it’s because he never wanted to be seen as even having an “urban” agenda for fear of being cast as the “Black” President), Newt, or another conservative might be well placed to bring the idea of self-reliance, family and hard-work back to the Black community where it’s been missing since liberals starting claiming that Gov would fix all ills.

    Though considering how Newt’s sensible statement that kids growing up and NOT seeing their folks work is detrimental, and that having kids do little jobs to experience work has been taken out of context to: “Newt supports child labor!!” I don’t think much will change any time soon.

    But we can all dream:


  21. I hesitate to respond to prof’s bizarre praise of Newt Gingrich, but I just can’t let it go.

    Newt did in fact come out in favor of child labor. Strongly:

    “It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in child laws which are truly stupid,” Gingrich said. “Saying to people you shouldn’t go to work before you’re 14, 16. You’re totally poor, you’re in a school that’s failing with a teacher that’s failing.”

    That’s as explicit an endorsement of getting rid of child-labor laws as I’ve ever seen. How else can you interpret it? But he went on:

    These schools should get rid of unionized janitors, have one master janitor, pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work; they’d have cash; they’d have pride in the schools. They’d begin the process of rising.”

    Ah, yes, have poor students become janitors in their schools. That’ll raise those test scores!

    Notice, of course, he’s not proposing this for rich kids. Nah, the Paris Hiltons of the world obviously have a great work ethic already. They know the best way to bring home the bacon is to be rich and flash your privates to the world, and then get a book or record deal. No need for them to be janitors at their schools, no sir.

    Hey, prof, why don’t you show up to the next BOE meeting here in Montclair and propose Newt’s idea? How great! Then all the poor kids (do you want to mark when “poor” ends and when “middle class” begins, or is that something you want Newt to do?) can start cleaning up after lunch and plunging the toilets after school. They’ll rise up in no time!

  22. I think Newt’s on to something. Though I’d layoff the janitors in all the schools, there are a lot of upper middle class kids who don’t understand work either. Keep some janitors to supervise an direct the kids, add an hour to the school day and do some work. It sounds terrific to me.

  23. I think Newt’s on to something. Though I’d layoff the janitors in all the schools, there are a lot of upper middle class kids who don’t understand work either. Keep some janitors to supervise an direct the kids, add an hour to the school day and do some work. It sounds terrific to me.

    It is a great idea. First, it would let us lay off millions of those greedy janitors who soak us taxpayers year after year. What are they getting, $35,000 annually? That’s criminal, especially when we could just make a child do it for free.

    And it would help the nation’s teens rise up, because we all know how easy it is to rise above the level of janitor.

    But why stop at public schools? Let’s open up McDonald’s restaurants to preteens, and Walmarts, and, hey, why not the coal mines? Why should adults get all the fun of those jobs?

  24. Indeed, ROC, Newt is on to something. Children janitors are a fine idea. We should teach them to work sewing machines, too.
    This way we can be competitive with those Southeast Asian sweatshops. Let’s make America self reliant again! We need sweatshops of our own !
    I can see it now, a Newt campaign commercial, young American kids, eyes full of hope, sewing an American flag together, in the long rays of the golden late afternoon sun. It stirs the heart.
    What you won’t see in the commercial is the sweatshop owner socking the profits away in Switzerland, or donating to the Newt campaign.

  25. In the private boarding school I went to, it was called “Saturday Morning Work Detail” and it was meted out as punishment. If we skipped sports, left campus without permission, etc., we’d be assigned scraping gum off the undersides of tables, raking leaves or shellacking lacrosse sticks. No class distinctions were implied; just the social distinction that the kids in trouble tended to be more fun.

    Nickcharles is right: it’s forced child labor, and besides, the laid-off janitors have families too.

  26. You see you can never lay anyone off because “they have families too”. And here I thought we spent tax dollars to provided necessary goods and services for the common good, when it’s just and employment program.

    Does anyone wonder now, why states and municipalities are going broke? EVERY cost containment will require the laying off of people who “have families too”.

    An hour of classroom cleaning, school system wide would do wonders. It would fight obesity and invest the kids in their own surroundings.

    It’s dreadful, I know. And probably bordering on child abuse in the the minds of some of you, but we forced our children to not only clean up after themselves but actually do chores around the house for the common good.

    I remember as a lad, working in the cafeteria for far below the minimum wage. I scrubbed pots, ran the dishwasher, I loved it for some reason. If memory serves, I got a dollar a day and a free lunch out of the deal.

  27. ROC, I don’t mind the lessons I learned working for a few bucks here and there in my youth, and even have a few fun memories. I remember the Queens car wash in the dead of winter, scrubbing bumpers all day until my hands couldn’t open. I also remember the Queens cash register job / whip up artificially flavored milkshakes at a Wetson’s job ( they don’t exist anymore ) and came home smelling like chemicals, grease and smoke. I pumped cheap beer and flipped reuben sandwiches till 2AM at a crummy bar while listening to crappy music. I did my share of barf mopping. I was a janitor in a camp kitchen, and a waiter there, and a cook. I remember when the 18 wheeler showed up with crates and crates of cling peaches and green beans. We unloaded that thing all day. I learned to crack 4 eggs at a time at that camp. Although it must be said that we smoked some good reefer at night, in the weeks before the campers showed up. Those days are long gone.

    I did all this before I was 18. I’m glad I developed a work ethic early. Perhaps that’s why I chose to be a small business owner for most of my adult life, and still show up at my desk at 6 AM.

    Newt might be hoping we’re believing that he’s suggesting something noble here, but it’s clear as a bell he’s just exhuming Ronnie’s “black welfare queen in pink Cadillac” crap to rile up the underemployed and unemployed white males over 60 in Ohio so they’ll get off their couches and vote for him.

    Looks like the Tea Party grass-rooters got stuck with two Washington insiders this time around. Newt the lobbyist and Mitt the job killer. What happened? We’ll see who does a better job bullshitting the last of the white haired angry and undereducated males who can see the world change and leave them stuck in the rust belt rotting away while flying tattered flags from their car radio antennae.

  28. it’s always a fun time around the cracker barrel when ROC entertains with stories of his youth. tell the one about walking to school in a blizzard again!

    but it’s sad to see how this exercise takes the discussion here grotesquely off course. kids cleaning their classrooms has NOTHING to do with rising poverty. it’s cynical and grotesque to think it does—but then again, newtie thinks the palestinians are an “invented” people…

  29. I can assure Newt, jcunningham, that the Palestinians are not “invented”, having personally seen their old stone homes in Jaffa and Jerusalem renovated by Israelis into trendy bars and art galleries, and their West Bank groves levelled and turned into colonies for bearded Brooklynites.

  30. Excellent point Spiro. America’s big blind spot.

    As to “child labor,” everyone worked when we were growing up. It was a matter of pride, and it taught you the meaning of earning money. Kids delivered papers, mowed lawns, raked leaves, baby sat, etc. These days such things don’t count for much on the resume compared to utterly contrived “volunteer” efforts that are calculated to impress college admissions officers. Away from Newt, there is a lot to be gained by re-instilling a bit of work ethic and eliminating the pervasive sense of entitlement present in our youth’s culture these days.

  31. Geez RoC do you really believe that the working poor are lazy? That those who hold 2 and 3 low paying jobs in order to support their families are slackers?

    “Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works, so they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday,” Gingrich said.

  32. Psht I was a renter and ditched living in Montclair because it was getting insanely expensive, ontop of not having anywhere to park in the freaking town.

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