Last year, the Montclair Planning Board voted in a tie of 4-4 failing to designate 44 Pleasant Avenue as an historic designation. Tonight, at the Montclair Planning Board meeting, an application to have the house demolished and the property subdivided into 8 lots is on the agenda for approval.
The house, designed by local architect Dudley Van Antwerp in 1906, was recommended for its unique style in comparison to Van Antwerp’s many other houses in the area but for also being the home of Woolworth executive Aubrey Lewis, one of Montclair’s esteemed black residents and the a member of a 1962 FBI agent training class, the first to admit blacks.
According to the Lewis’s family Real estate agent Laurena White, the family objected to the designation because it would complicate efforts to sell the property, both for themselves and prospective owners.
Board member Martin Schwartz forcefully argued that the historic designation should be forwarded to the council because the recommendation met two criteria and that the decision had to be based on historic value and not economics. Board member Carole Willis disagreed, saying that the Lewis family should not accept an historic designation they neither asked for nor wanted. Her reasoning prevailed, as the motion to forward the Lewis house recommendation failed by a 4-4 tie, with Councilor McMahon abstaining. Joining Willis were Barr, Ianuale, and Craig Brandon; Schwartz was joined by Loughman, DeSalvo and Keith Brodock.
Residents of the neighborhood are upset and are pushing for the designation in order to stop the tear down and development in its place.