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.