Two Cities, Times Two

In today’s New York Times, another in-depth portrait on Montclair, this time detailing how Montclair State University and its student body are virtually adrift at the northern most-point in town, a "metropolis" on a hill, all by its lonesome. The article opens with the sentence:

√¢‚Ǩ≈ìThe story of Montclair, in a sense, is a tale of two cities.√¢‚Ǩ¬ù It sounded so familiar, we had to check back to the Times√¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ coverage of our town’s "division" in the aftermath of an alleged rape some weeks back. That time they said:

"But Montclair is almost a tale of two cities, with big, expensive houses on tree-lined avenues and neighborhoods with gritty street corners and hair-braiding salons.”

Besides defining new dividing lines, the Times article also reveals plans for a university shuttle that could take students downtown (to Upper Montclair, located more than a mile away from campus) so they can “go to the movies, shop, go out to eat, buy books, go to the Gap, etc.” We guess walking or riding bikes, or bumming rides with friends that drive, is out of the question.

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  1. Since our mayor, Ed Remsen, was quoted in the article, here’s what I wrote to him:
    Montclair State makes too small an effort to attract Montclair people. Here’s one example. I think the Montclair Public library is woefully inadequate. Poor book holdings, especially for older High School students and certainly for serious college research. We have Montclair State library. Although their collections seem to be dated (looks like they ran out of money ten years ago) it’s far superior to our library.
    Yet my High School junior can’t borrow books from the library at the University. I can, but only three.
    I did write to Pat Kenschaft who was sympathetic and gave me some people to write to. ZERO response.
    And, what about the university marketing their evening or weekend programs, or short courses, to residents of Montclair? Does the university even HAVE an evening program, or extension courses, etc? If so, they’re marketed very poorly. Ditto concerts, lectures, etc.
    If the perception is that the university is another world, they’ve done nothing to change that perception as far as I can see.

  2. I think the only practical solution to better integrate the university and town is through public transportation (i.e. the shuttle buses suggestion in the article). There has always been a severe lack of parking at MSU and within Montclair itself, and as the school body continues to grow and the construction projects erect buildings taking away parking spaces, accomodating cars will continue to be a problem. The train station will help bring in students to the campus and town (without their cars) so maybe a coalition with train service and shuttle bus service needs to be bridged with the school administrators and town representatives.
    The recent growth brought upon MSU president Cole will keep the school competitive–if not a leader–within NJ state schools. Yes, I agree, the external marketing program needs a fresh campaign and strategy when the building boom has settled. But balancing the needs of the school and the needs of the town residents will be a delicate task: no one wants Montclair to become a Hoboken or New Brunswick, but the town can benefit from a fresh infuse of college students as both consumers and employees.

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