Nishuane Park Noise Complaints Dominate Montclair Township Council Meeting

BY  |  Wednesday, Jul 23, 2014 9:30am  |  COMMENTS (21)

Town Council Despite an agenda of mostly trouble-free ordinances and resolutions at the Montclair Township Council’s regular meeting on July 22, controversy was stirred up in public comment over two recent events at Nishuane Park, while a third event is being planned there for August.

Resident Michael Norman of North Brookwood Drive, which is across from Nishuane Park, spoke to complain about recent events at the park, most notably the Montclair High School all-class reunion that took place on July 19.

Norman said he attended a meeting with Fourth Ward Councilor Renée Baskerville, Township Manager Marc Dashield, and Recreation and Cultural Affairs Director Pat Breschka about the various problems regarding events there, including  traffic control and parking, but especially excessive noise. Norman suggested that there could be temporary measures that could be taken vis-à-vis while an effort was made to come up with long-term solutions to staging events in all of the municipal parks, such as lowering the volume of the music played at the events, re-positioning the speakers to keep the sound away from the neighborhoods, and extra police presence to monitor the traffic. He was afraid that the problems could be repeated when the Montclair Jazz Festival is held in Nishuane Park on August 16. He cited ordinance regulating sound in public spaces that was passed by the council in 1986, when Mayor Robert Jackson was a councilor-at-large, as something that could be built on to make life more bearable for the Brookwood Drives.

Mayor Jackson responded by noting that there are fewer events in Nishuane Park today than in the previous 20 years, and two of the three major events in the park today — the African-American Heritage Festival and the Montclair Jazz Festival — happen annually, while the all-class reunion is once every two years. While showing sympathy for Norman and trying not suggest he was minimizing Norman’s concerns, and while also saying that he asked that the volume of the music be turned down while at the all-class reunion, the mayor noted that the two of the few remaining events at the park are attended largely by Blacks, with the jazz festival drawing a more racially mixed audience.

“Do we have an issue with just who and not what?” Mayor Jackson said.

Norman, who is white, insisted that race was not the issue for him, and he added that he was glad that the park was being well-utilized. He said that his issue was with the size of the events and the suitability the events for any municipal park in Montclair for such events.  “It has nothing to do with the nature of the event itself,” Norman said.

Mayor Jackson said that Montclair’s numerous events and celebrations are what draws people to live there in the first place, and that reconciling the town’s lively atmosphere with residential concerns was part of the trade-off for living in a town that was not a sterile example of classic suburbia, adding “So many of us, if we really wanted to live in a more homogenic, placid community, we would move to Chatham.”

Dr. Baskerville said she hoped the many concerns of residents could be addressed for what they are and avoid any suspicions of racially driven motivation. Hackensack resident and Montclair High School class reunion committee member Toi Blount re-iterated her objective to avoid infringing on anyone’s quality of life and hoped to work out any standing issues before the next reunion in 2016. Resident Ilmar Vanderer, whose house is across the street from Anderson Park, said that living near a park commonly used for major events mean that such disruptions go with the territory, while South Brookwood Drive resident Mark Parrino said that the issue was a “matter of numbers,”  noting that security for large numbers of people and parking issues should also be concerns. Parrino added that large numbers of parked cars created blind spots at intersections in the area.

Jazz singer Melissa Walker addresses the Montclair Township Council about the 2014 Montclair Jazz Festival.

Jazz singer Melissa Walker addresses the Montclair Township Council about the 2014 Montclair Jazz Festival.

As part of the meeting’s agenda, jazz legends and Montclair residents Christian McBride and Melissa Walker, husband and wife, laid out the plans for the Montclair Jazz Festival, which is produced by their organization Jazz House Kids. Walker noted the many steps taken to ensure the 2014 edition of the jazz festival is a success.  Jazz Houses kids’ contingency plans for this year, she said, involve a police patrol twice as large as that in 2013 to be augmented by private security officers, an aggressive cleanup task force to keep ahead of garbage, and amplification geared mostly to acoustic music to ensure a tolerable level of sound. She suggested that complaints about the music at the class reunion in Nishuane Park were more of a question of genre, noting that house music was played at the reunion, which is not the same as jazz.

“The nature of that music itself is different than perhaps other genres,” she said of jazz.

McBride, who was the jazz director for the Los Angeles Philharmonic for four years, noted that the Hollywood Bowl has a similar issue with noise due to its location in a residential neighborhood, and he said that he’s familiar with the need to keep the volume down for outdoor concerts. At the Hollywood Bowl, he said, rules stipulate that even heavy metal acts are required to keep music at a limited decibel level out of respect for the local residents.

Nugent Protest
While jazz got a lot of love at the council meeting, heavy metal — at least Ted Nugent’s version of it — certainly didn’t. Dr. Baskerville, Third Ward Councilor Sean Spiller, and Deputy Mayor Robert Russo arrived late at the meeting after having appeared at the Wellmont Theatre to express solidarity with the groups protesting the “Cat Scratch Fever” rocker’s appearance there that evening for his bigoted, reactionary views. Deputy Mayor Russo said that the Wellmont’s managers, who were compelled to present Nugent there because of a deal with the Live Nation promotional company, vowed to make sure that he would never play there again.

Water Conservation
Also at the meeting, Environmental Coordinator Gray Russell shared with the council proposals for water conservation, such as employing lawn watering restrictions by having watering days coincide with garbage collection days,  and requiring low-flow toilets and efficient shower heads in new construction.  Mayor Jackson asked Township Attorney Ira Karasick if an ordinance requiring such toilets and shower heads in new construction and rehabs could be enacted. Karasick said that he could look into it.

The site of a planned traffic signal at Bloomfield Avenue and Lloyd Road (signified by the red star) with the nearby one-way street directions proposed by Montclair Councilor-at-Large Rich McMahon.

The site of a planned traffic signal at Bloomfield Avenue and Lloyd Road (signified by the red star) with the nearby one-way street directions proposed by Montclair Councilor-at-Large Rich McMahon.

Other Ordinances
The council also passed an ordinance requiring cars to park at least two feet from either side of a driveway apron, with, as amended, exceptions for four-foot setbacks in areas near schools. A first-reading ordinance requiring stricter repaving rules for portions of streets dug up by public utilities also passed, and resolutions renaming the Nishuane Tennis courts after tennis instructor James Firebrace and accepting the gift of a seating area in Edgemont Park were passed. A resolution authorizing a contract to install a traffic signal and Bloomfield Avenue and Lloyd Road passed, with a caveat from Councilor-at-Large Rich McMahon that Parkhurst Place ought to be re-designated as a one way street from Bloomfield Avenue with Rockledge Road re-designated as a one-way street to Bloomfield Avenue. Dashield said it was important to secure the contract first, and Councilor Spiller, having dealt with paving issues regarding  these two streets, said that communication with local residents was needed before any such changes to the traffic patterns could be implemented.  The resolution passed in order to facilitate the signal installation, with the traffic patterns to be worked out through proper channels later.





  1. POSTED BY mtc4life  |  July 23, 2014 @ 9:37 am

    Live near a park and then complain about the usage of the park…what a world

  2. POSTED BY sillyphus  |  July 23, 2014 @ 10:29 am

    “Live near a park and then complain about the usage of the park…what a world”

    More like there’s a volume knob and you don’t have to deafen the attendees while annoying the neighbors. I was at both events (plan to be at the third) and at the reunion it was hard to talk with people it was so freakin’ LOUD, and that’s the reason to be at one. There is a compromise folks and not a tough titty attitude you live near the park, or for that matter “name that place here” that people think it’s an OK to be an inconsiderate idiot zone. Why is it only fun if it’s too loud or I get to talk and laugh like it’s a kids birthday party at 1 AM while I’m leaving the bar while the people that live there are trying to sleep. It’s a crowded world and we all want to have fun.

    ” At the Hollywood Bowl, he said, rules stipulate that even heavy metal acts are required to keep music at a limited decibel level out of respect for the local residents.”

  3. POSTED BY alic314  |  July 23, 2014 @ 10:49 am

    About the MHS Reunion held at Nishuane Park recently. We live close to the Public Library on Fullerton, and we heard the music from the event. It was quite loud.
    And the Montclair Jazz Festival is a GEM of an event, hope that as many people as possible go and experience it next month! Melissa and Christian and all of the dedicated people over at Jazz House Kids are terrific.

  4. POSTED BY samwich  |  July 23, 2014 @ 11:37 am

    Yes I don’t think living near the park means you can’t comment on events there. Noise and traffic are annoying wherever you live, so if we can mitigate it as much as possible for the festivals that is great. I wonder if, along with repositioning, they could add some kind of backstop behind the speakers to direct the music in instead of out (without building a wall around the park).

  5. POSTED BY State Street Pete  |  July 23, 2014 @ 11:53 am

    When I found out the reunion was at Nishuane I had the feeling there might be issues. The reunion is a great time, but parking is a mad house, and the music is always WAY too loud. It drove us to leave early is past years, and my kids hate it. If it’s too loud for them, wow.

    The crowd for the Jazz Festival is a lot more low key and the music is no where near as loud.

    I totally agree with Dr. Baskerville that residents concerns should be addressed on their face and not under suspicion of racially driven motivation. I understand the sensitivity, and real concerns about racism should be addressed head on, but the Mayor should really think before he speaks and not insinuate that the speaker is concerned about “who and not what” without any basis in fact.

  6. POSTED BY Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam  |  July 23, 2014 @ 12:55 pm

    I live close to Nishuane Park and have had an offer to perform in the park for a Montclair Film Festival screening declined because of potential concerns over volume levels, even if I perform solo acoustic. As the leader of a rock band for kids, I’m very sensitive to playing too loudly and risking hearing damage to little ones. My point is that these events, no matter how large, can have measurable standards for acceptable volume levels, maybe measured in decibels at specific points around the edge of the park. And yes, fellow residents need to meet festival organizers part-way on this. They don’t live in a silent zone; festivals are good for the area. Festival organizers should control the volume, particularly of pre-recorded background music.

  7. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  July 23, 2014 @ 2:09 pm

    I watched the exchange on TV34 between the Mayor and Mr Norman and did not see the race issue coming. It certainly caught my attention. As with many issues, there is probably a back story that lead up to the Mayor’s raising the race question.

    That aside, I was disturbed over the noise discussion, and the unnecessary added tension it created. I was bothered that there was a lack of knowledge of basic sound principles, terminology, and healthy standards by any of the parties.

    Sound intensity is basically comprised of loudness and pitch and is often measured on a logarithmic scale. So, a small 2-4dBA sound level increase from an 85dbA exposure level would effectively double the “dose” to 8 hours. 85dBA is a level associated with hearing impairment.

    I’m not taking sides on this Nishuane issue because it is about more than noise. I am saying the township officials needs to educate themselves on the issues of noise instead of shooting from the hip and applying ad hoc measures for one public space. If the township can implement nonsmoking ordinance for health reasons, then they need to understand noise pollution is a far more prevalent risk – especially for minors.

    and willingness to acknowledge the science of sound intensity and of basic sound science.

    lack of on the sound issue created on both sides around ignorance of the science of sound.

  8. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  July 23, 2014 @ 2:11 pm

    ignore the last two lines…editing “leftovers”

  9. POSTED BY neighborofmsu  |  July 23, 2014 @ 2:14 pm

    The legal noise levels at your property line are unlawful if they exceed 65 decibels. I know this because I live one block from the MSU stadium and it can be too loud. Our township police are not trained to enforce noise but The Essex Regional Health Commission are very helpful on noise issues- ERHC can lawfully measure and deliver a fine if decibel guidelines aren’t followed. If you aren’t sure if noise just seems too loud or is actually over 65 decibels there are free apps for smart phones that measure to give you an idea- even when setting up a venue for example. Go to the property line of a neighbor during a sound check and see what reading you get- then adjust the volume!

  10. POSTED BY jeffrey56  |  July 23, 2014 @ 2:44 pm

    Mayor Jackson’s comment: “living in a town that was not a sterile example of classic suburbia, like towns “west of us.” had an ouch to it and did not seem very appropriate for an elected official. When I worked at a U south of here, the town regulated the decibel levels of campus events and Montclair could do the same in its own parks. And when you attend an event where the music is too loud, ask that it be lowered or vote with your feet and leave. When you buy a house by choice, next to a park, a basketball court,a baseball diamond, a playground, a train track, a fire house, etc. you are going to hear noise and have traffic now and again. I know. I live across the street from a park in “classic suburbia.”

  11. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  July 23, 2014 @ 3:40 pm

    The Mayor specifically said Chatham. I’m not sure why Baristanet chose to replace with towns “west of us.” in quotes. Maybe it was a combination of two separate quotes or the editor wasn’t sure whether he was referring to the sterility of Chatham Township or Chatham Borough. Maybe he should clarify.

  12. POSTED BY jeffrey56  |  July 23, 2014 @ 3:59 pm

    Regardless! It is not something a Mayor should be saying, in my opinion, when towns should be working in unison and cooperation to make this a great state to live in! He should not be making us look better at the expense of anyone or place. We should be able to stand out based on out merits. Perhaps Chatham likes sterile.

  13. POSTED BY sabrina19  |  July 23, 2014 @ 5:08 pm

    We live right across the park and let me tell you, there is no escaping the extremely loud noise that goes on at these evens. Our windows literally rattle it is so loud. I’d love to have Mayor Jackson come over for a while when this is happening to hear first hand what it’s like. It’s easy to sit there and talk about it when you don’t have to hear and live through it for well over 8 hours at a time.

    And it would be nice to get a little advance notice too… This so called reunion date was a complete surprise to us on July 19th and we were away. My 85 year old mother who lives with us and is a stoke victim had a caretaker watching over her, if we had known, we would have stayed and taken my mom away like we usually do for 8+ hours at a time while these events go on. And mind you, it is no easy task as she is wheelchair bound, but if we don’t, her blood pressure rises to astonishing heights because the noise upsets her so much. I think people should enjoy the park, don’t get me wrong, but what is wrong with asking to lower the music!!! It’s not asking much to simply “Turn it down”!!!

  14. POSTED BY sillyphus  |  July 23, 2014 @ 5:09 pm

    Sorry Frank, but if you don’t get it’s just too loud, and at any event happening lately that’s true…then your head is in the sand and you can’t hear it. When your at an event to listen to music, like the upcoming jazz fest, then that’s what you’re there for…..consideration to neighbors in a tight environment is appreciated and all compromise.
    When you’re at an event as a get together and your ears hurt and you have to keep repeating things not to shout at someone 2 feet from you cause they can’t hear you over the “background” music… it’s not only too loud for the event , you can bet it pisses off the people who live nearby…and with good reason.
    As far as telling them to turn it down, I’m not shy, but limited authority along with must be something wrong with me, I do vote with my feet; which can be a shame as the event itself would be enjoyable if a lot more people didn’t have to vote with there feet just for that reason.
    Sometimes it works though, as with the Tierney’s anniversary and the bands in the bar, they actually turned it down below ear bleed upon request.
    What I don’t get is anybody that enjoys it that loud, and I’m a jazz/blues drummer, but they must be the same ones that think we all want to hear what’s playing in their car 4 blocks away.

  15. POSTED BY Liz George  |  July 23, 2014 @ 5:18 pm

    Thanks Frank – Jackson’s quote referring to Chatham has been added.

  16. POSTED BY sillyphus  |  July 23, 2014 @ 5:38 pm

    Coining a new term … car-J’s … people with mobile loud music without the ice cream.

  17. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  July 23, 2014 @ 5:40 pm

    I do get the problem of excessive noise the effects extend beyond impairing hearing. I was not at the events, but the fact the mayor asked to turned down the music was indicative to me of the problem.

    I probably could have been cleared in my position which is sustained exposure to sound levels above 65dBA to 85dBA can be unhealthy and a quality of life issue. I think anything sustained above 85dBA is just wrong and damaging. The fact it was in a public park only compounds the issue in several ways.

    Due to the noise levels, the township is effectively ceding an entire, & our largest, park on a summer weekend to an event. Regardless of the park, any event that effectively takes over an entire park should have a different, stricter set of rules.

  18. POSTED BY adeptusmajor  |  July 23, 2014 @ 9:07 pm

    Having recently moved near Linden Ave, I experienced the ramifications of the road blocks, the redirected traffic and the influx of people from out of town (sadly many of them did not seem to respect the social contract or the quality of life that most residents try to maintain in Montclair). I didn’t mind awaking early on the morning of June 7th to all of the parked cars outside or the echoes of loud music coming from several blocks away. None of this bothered me in the slightest, but when I tried to take my children and some of their friends out that morning to attend the Homer Robinson day @ Anderson Park, I found it startlingly dangerous and very frustrating to even get out of the neighborhood.

    While the Cedar and Orange roadblock had a PD presence, they were absent elsewhere and seemingly oblivious/indifferent to the havoc this arrangement, this event and redirection as well as the volume of traffic was causing in a 10 block radius of the neighborhood. We were nearly hit by a speeding SUV with out of state plates that flew around a blind corner followed by an entourage of drop top vehicles blasting their music with booming systems circa 1988. The SUV’s windows were down, and the passengers as well as the driver were aggressively flailing their tattooed arms with abrasive mean mugging, trying their best to intimidate us (a single parent with a car full of children) – glaring and yelling and then speeding off.

    I found pizza boxes, liquor bottles and other objects on our front lawn and up and down the street. I have lived in proximity to parks before…even other parks in this town, and never have I experienced this sort of lawless chaos and disorder. The Homer Robinson event at Anderson Park was like another galaxy entirely. The first noticeable difference between the two events in two parks on either side of town that day is that the Anderson Park event was not attracting people from out of town. You can’t dismiss the impact that these large scale Nishuane Park events have on the surrounding area. They need better planning. The residents in the surrounding neighborhoods should be taken into consideration. There should be a much larger police presence, and with all the talk about traffic studies on Bloomfield Ave, they should do one for Orange, Willowdale, Madison, Draper, Washingtion, etc.. I know from driving that day that we were not the only ones affected. Just look no further than what happens on the other side of Harrison Ave in the estates section too.

  19. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  July 23, 2014 @ 10:53 pm

    Looking at it from the Mayor’s perspective, I have to ask myself. “How does Brookwood Drive – a non-thru street with just 9 houses on it – get 3 separate street names (North, West & South)?

  20. POSTED BY miller  |  July 24, 2014 @ 12:39 am

    We attended the Jazz Festival in Nishuane Park last year. Good crowd, great event, but apparently an uncontrolled, unplanned parking situation. It is true that cars were parked on side streets west of Harrison in ways that left blind intersections and partly blocked driveways. Inconsiderate and in some places dangerous. Traffic cones or sawhorses could reduce parking too close to intersections. Clear signage for a designated parking area on the side of the park would be good. But it seems the town prefers to do little in advance, then deal with complaints by suggesting some residents are racist.
    I don’t think town residents need to put up with major inconvenience and dangerous conditions because they live near a park. We live on the Midland Avenue side of Edgemont Park and our neighborhood is too often the site of fun runs; our streets are blocked by the town on many weekends and sometimes the police have told me that I can’t drive down my own block for two hours on a Saturday morning — all with no advance notice.

  21. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  August 01, 2014 @ 11:44 pm

    Ten days have passed without an apology by the Mayor to Montclair residents and to Chatham.

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