Despite two meetings last week – one with officials at Montclair State University and the other with Montclair councilor Rich Murnick – residents in the Normal Avenue neighborhood of Montclair are still highly suspicious of the university’s latest plans to revamp traffic patterns. “They don’t trust them,” Murnick says of his constituents. “They’re living next to a university that’s growing by leaps and
Despite suspicions, Murnick is sure there’s “nothing slated to be built on my watch” in the neighborhood and he has communicated to MSU that he wants to know any plans before bulldozers show up.
Resident Soraya Morgan thinks the university could do a better job at being a good neighbor.
My family and I just moved to Montclair 2 years ago. I am originally from Dallas and when I learned there was a home available walking distance from a university, I was thrilled! And it is, in fact, a great opportunity. My daughter goes to the pre-school at Montclair State University (MSU) and could not be happier. They are the most dedicated, talented and caring teachers I have ever seen. And I can’t wait until she goes to Bradford – the University Magnet. All of my neighbors have told me how happy they are with the quality of education, care and love MSU teachers give to their children. But I have been shocked to learn of the poor communication and lack of concern the university displays to its neighbors. For instance, one of my neighbors lives West side of the tracks and has to look at an ugly cell tower and parked buses. The fence MSU put around the temporary lot next to the Bond House which now seems permanent is old and tattered. Trees require less maintenance and are prettier. Plus, graffiti is not a problem on trees. Perhaps the University would revisit the lot and beautify it if they are intent on making it permanent. They recently planted many trees around the Bond House which can be seen from a busy street. What about adding more trees so their neighbors can also appreciate the trees and have less of an eyesore. Just last Thursday, I learned the University is taking traffic off of their property and putting the volume into a small corner of the community. They have plans to put trees on campus but not around the perimeter. Why not consider working together with the neighbors to find solutions? These issues can all be solved easily. All it takes is MSU making the first steps toward building a relationship with its neighbors.
Southern Methodist University (SMU), for example, is located in one of the most valued real estate areas in Dallas, Highland Park. Today, residents there are some of the wealthiest in the world including billionaires like Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and H. Ross Perot, a former U.S. presidential candidate. It is also the recently chosen home for George W. Bush and his presidential library. Highland Park is a beautiful neighborhood full of tree-lined streets and historic homes very much like what we have here in Montclair. Residents there have the same issue as those of us who live close to MSU: loud games, student littering, fast driving. Yet, SMU is not just tolerated by their neighbors; it is appreciated and respected. Why? Because SMU, regardless of who is the president of the university or on the local town council, understands the importance of public opinion and what it means to proactively be a good neighbor. The university does not just “beautify” its own campus; it donates money and time to beautifying its neighborhood by committing to landscaping outside the school as well as local non-profit organizations like Habitat for Humanity. SMU also understands and appreciates the importance of respecting the “fence” of its neighbors. These positive gestures have built a tremendous amount of good will in the community over the years that has resulted in consistent positive public relations, increased student enrollment as well as increased donations from Alumni and neighbors.
I still am very happy to be living so close to MSU but hope that it makes the purposeful decision to place a higher priority on building good will by proactively halting all activity that negatively affect the quality of life of their beloved neighbors.
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