Councilor Hurlock Addresses Historic Preservation and Public Safety At Community Meeting

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Montclair First Ward Councilor William Hurlock addresses constituents at his January 29 community meeting.
Montclair First Ward Councilor William Hurlock addresses constituents at his January 29 community meeting.

Montclair First Ward Councilor William Hurlock held his first community meeting of 2015, where he took questions and made comments regarding issues concerning issues specifically relating to Upper Montclair, along with a few general issues affecting the whole township. The biggest issue discussed at the January 29 meeting was NJ Transit’s interest in de-listing the Upper Montclair railway station from the state and national historic registers because of the February 2006 fire that destroyed most of the original building.

Councilor Hurlock explained that the issue first came up in February 2011 when the township Historic Preservation Commission first received the de-listing request, with two letters sent by Barton Ross of the HPC and Mayor Robert Jackson in September 2012 saying that, based on conversations with the HPC, the town didn’t oppose the de-listing.

“There’s some big debate as to what transpired during the re-build,” the councilor said. “My understanding is that there was an extensive process undertaken when this was rebuilt to try to use as much of the original structure or material as possible, maybe as high as anywhere from 15 to 25 percent, including the porte-cochère.”

The porte-cochère, or the portico extending from the main structure of the railway station, was left over from the original 1892 building and incorporated into the re-built station, along with original terra cotta roof tiles, keeping the historic designation intact. There were two options in rebuilding the station; one was to use authentic 1890s building materials, and the other was to incorporate as much of the original building that survived the fire as possible.  The latter option was chosen to cut costs, and even though both options were valid ways of keeping the building historic, NJ Transit chose to have it de-listed anyway.

Ironically, Montclair Planning Board member Martin Schwartz, in answering resident Ilmar Vanderer’s question as to what benefit could possibly come from having it de-listed, said that cost cutting was the issue; keeping the railway station listed as an historic building would require the transit agency to invest more money in its maintenance and use more expensive materials to preserve it per historic register guidelines.

Councilor Hurlock re-affirmed his opposition to the de-listing, and he urged constituents to write the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office and NJ Transit to keep it on the state and national historic registers. He said he believed that the 2006 reconstruction, with the salvaged historic materials, still complemented the historic nature of the Upper Montclair Business District. A public hearing on the matter is tentatively scheduled for March 12.

Another resident was at the meeting to address concerns about the area around Mountainside Park along Highland Avenue.  He complained about utility workers in the area throwing garbage, including beer bottles, on the ground during lunchtime, and he noted that he had had to report a narcotics transaction in the area that led to a drug bust reported in the Montclair Times.  Glenda Rivera, a police officer with the Montclair community policing unit, explained that the police were divided into different zones, each with a certain amount of assigned officers, and she noted that the zone including Mountainside Park was geographically large and thus difficult to patrol. She encouraged the resident to stay in touch with Chief David Sabagh to focus on the problems in the area, lamenting that it was impossible for officers in any zone to be everywhere all the time.

When Ilmar Vanderer opined that the police officer keeping a watch on Anderson Park, next to where he lives, could be of better use at Mountainside, Officer Rivera informed him that complaints about rowdy teenagers in Anderson Park necessitated the patrol. She said she understood the frustration of enforcing the law in all of Montclair’s public spaces.

“We try to  enforce as often and as hard as we can,” she said.  “You have no idea how I wish they could just say, ‘Glenda, go hit every single park, every single day.'” Vanderer suggested a greater balance in distributing police officers throughout the parks, noting that he never saw any illicit activities in Anderson Park in the daytime and that officers would be more effective elsewhere, such as Mountainside Park at lunchtime.

First Ward Councilor William Hurlock with Montclair Acting Township Manger Timothy Stafford
First Ward Councilor William Hurlock with Montclair Acting Township Manger Timothy Stafford

Acting Township Manager Timothy Stafford also introduced himself to First Ward constituents at this first community meeting for the ward since he took over from Marc Dashield.  Residents praised him for his oversight of the recent snow removal following the first major snowfall to affect Montclair in the winter of 2014-15, and he was quick to deflect the credit to Public Works Superintendent Rob Bianco. Another resident expressed concern about the traffic at Norwood and Lorraine Avenues, just a block away from the Bellevue Avenue library where the meeting was held, in light of a recent accident where a child was struck by a car. Stafford was sympathetic to the request for a four-way stop sign at the intersection, a study which would have to conducted by Township Engineer Kim Craft, and he said he would relay the concern to Chief Sabagh in an effort to enforce the speed limits in the intersection.

Katie York of Lifelong Montclair
Katie York of Lifelong Montclair

Katie York of Lifelong Montclair, an aging-in-place group that helps senior citizens remain residents of the township, appeared to talk about her group’s activities. York, Lifelong Montclair’s project director, said that seminars helping aging Montclair residents utilize public transit were being planned,  and she was making an effort to distribute transit guides throughout the township.  Other things the group was doing was getting Home Sharing, a group that helps older people share housing to come into Montclair.  York can be reached via e-mail for more information at MontclairAIP@gmail.com.

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21 COMMENTS

  1. It did not start in 2011. This goes back to 2006:

    https://baristanetnew.wpengine.com/2006/11/to-delist-or-not-to-delist/

    https://baristanetnew.wpengine.com/2006/12/surprise-upper-montclair-station-to-stay-historic/

    NJTransit was a member of the town task force that made the recommendations how to rebuild. Look at what they said. Then someone with HP expertise needs to carefully review the original State & National listing form as well as Montclair’s listing form that was part of the Upper Montclair Historic District designation before they go to Trenton for the hearing. Also note the lots covered, too.

    PS: I doubt Barton Ross wrote the letter as he wasn’t working for the Planning Dept then.

  2. “Councilor Hurlock explained that ….. based on conversations with the HPC that the town didn’t oppose the de-listing.”

    Fact check please.

  3. Kind of strange for anyone to worry about the “historic designation” when this is a private business complete with grease traps and dumpsters blocking the stairs to the station. It is not open in the morning when the patrons are going to work. How NJT allowed anything to be built there that would not serve as a station is beyond me.

    It was my understanding that that was part of the original agreement when the previous tenant was building and it just seems to be forgotten.

    I for one would rather have cheaper roof tiles if I could get inside during a snow storm or a cold morning.

    Does anyone on here have the ability to find out what the original agreement was to see if it is being enforced? Is that something I could do an OPRA request on?

  4. A comfortable, attractive train station that provides riders with shelter during inclement weather. That should be the fundamental *point* of the building, as “montclair” directly above points out. The fact that that the building doesn’t fulfill that fundamental purpose makes everything else seem rather beside the point.

  5. Fair questions about services, but the point still remains one of historic designation. I don’t mind and understand if discussing HP is not important or is strange. This is certainly a thread about the 1st Ward issues where you should voice your issues. But, maybe not denigrate HP to make your point. Feel free to denigrate the HPC.

  6. And the original establishment tried to close in the morning (because no one was buying breakfast) and one of the council forced their hand to fulfill the obligation to stay open, provide shelter and bathrooms as advertised.

    As a matter of fact it was Cary Africk

    POSTED BY Cary Africk | April 29, 2010 @ 11:56 am

    I investigated.
    The “legal” arrangement is between the restaurant and New Jersey Transit.
    There is a requirement for access. My NJ Transit contact, who is responsible for these things, said that changes are being worked out with the owner, today. Look for action “very soon.”
    So, let me know if things haven’t changed in the next 10 days.
    Cary Africk

    https://baristanetnew.wpengine.com/2010/04/commuters-complain-of-cold-reception-at-upper-montclair-station/

  7. There is no denigration of HP. The first rule of a “historic train station” should be that it functions as a station. If this was a chuck e cheese with original materials I don’t think anyone would care. This property was championed by HP, and I believe the support was based on both function and preservation.

    And to smell the garbage there on a summer day… yuck

  8. You’re right. It is the first rule and should take priority.

    In many ways, I am stuck in old-school ways. Historic designation to control design of what modifications could be done to a building or the site with a small amount of remaining historic fabric is the wrong tool. The new tool is Form Based Codes. These FBC still wouldn’t apply to NJTransit or the Township, but we should make them follow the spirit of FBC we implement.

  9. Besides being built in 1892, what makes this building historic? Is something historic simply because of it’s age? Is there some relevance to the historical nature of this building other than providing “quaint local charm?”

  10. Nope.
    It was built in a factory and delivered to the site one weekend in 2010. Set it on a new foundation encasing the old, smaller one. They reattached what remained of the entrance canopy, used the old terra cotta roof tiles remaining, added some trim and…voila! Then NJTansit waited an appropriate amount of time (less than a year) to try and delist it again.

    I confident that if it was designated on another historic basis, it would likely be hard to delist because, as much as we try, you can’t delete history. Revise yes, delete no.

  11. To be more specific: what made the original structure historically significant other than being built in 1892?

  12. While historical justifications are not prioritized, I think the primary reason was that the station played a very significant role in the development of Upper Montclair during the period of significance, c.1890-1920.

    Another reason that helped was the landscape architect was the Olmsted Company. Don’t recall who the architect was.

    I don’t think the application cited historically notable people associated with the station, but the first World Chess Champion lived a short walk to the UM Station and used it to commute to his matches in NYC. That was between 1890-1902 or so. I think the first championship was in 1894.

    His former assistant killed the assistant replacing him. The mortally wounded assistant was brought to Mountainside Hospital, but because he died some time later, they couldn’t charge the killer with murder. Not related to the station, just an interesting tidbit that there is a whole history to Montclair that is long forgotten with no visual cues to remind or make us wonder.

  13. Seems like Montclair history would be a perfect project in a school history class. It could help us all to remember and be more immersive for the kids.

  14. I would suggest you talk first with the Montclair Public Library. The staff, resources, and programming covering Montclair history are pretty amazing.

  15. Without the Upper Montclair train station, there would have never been an Upper Montclair. At least not as we know it today. It would have likely been kept as open farm land and then developed post WWII, like what you see happen (pretty drastically), when you cross the border into Clifton.

    The station was built, and then homes started being built around it. It changed from being a largely rural community to a destination to live in its own right. This entire town was built and developed around the train stations. Upper Montclair included. So yes, the train station has serious historic value.

    And yes, charm should be a factor also. If for nothing else, it’s a massive part of Montclair, as a whole’s appeal. Montclair is old (by American standards) and charming. That’s what makes it nice and different from literally almost EVERY other town in New Jersey. It’s worth fighting for.

    Can you imagine if NJ Transit told Glen Ridge they wanted to declassify their train station? They’d literally be laughed out of town (and probably right into Montclair).

    Wonder if people said the same things being said here when they tore Penn Station down.

Comments are closed.