MontClairVoyant: April Is the Foolish Month, And This Spring Break Piece Proves It

BY  |  Thursday, Apr 20, 2017 1:15pm  |  COMMENTS (30)

 

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Are you away for Spring Break, or in Montclair?

Sincerely,
The Easter Bunny

We traveled to Brookdale Park for my daughter’s weekly soccer game — and going through customs was a breeze!

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Okay, so you’ve been home. What else did you do besides watch soccer?

Sincerely,
Variety Subscriber

One thing I did NOT do was worry about my daughter’s homework for a few precious days. I’m still recovering from her science-fair project of turning vinegar and hot milk into plastic — creating an almost-usable credit card.

 

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Reminds me that April 12’s Board of Education meeting saw Montclair High students give an eloquent presentation on homework — saying there’s too much of it and some of it isn’t very useful. Thoughts?

Sincerely,
Biz E. Work

Students should have less homework, and elementary schoolers should have none. It’s better to relax, be with family and friends, read for pleasure, play sports, do other activities, get enough sleep, and suck on cough drops after screaming at Trump photos.

 

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Also at the April 12 meeting, there were informative presentations on special education and improving racial equity in our schools. That made for a long night, didn’t it?

Sincerely,
Midnight at the O’Stasis

I left just after 10 p.m., but I heard the meeting continued until the 2024 Summer Olympics.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Speaking of competitions, the Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence is holding its second “Amazing Fundracer” on May 21. Comment?

Sincerely,
Rhea Ality-Show

Nice! MFEE helps fund so much (including Undoing Racism workshops) and coordinates the annual “toasts” for our terrific teachers. It’s a pleasure seeing educators outside the classroom, but seeing public-schools-hater Gov. Christie is like a Poe horror story — albeit with a tell-tale lack of heart.

 

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
What books from the Montclair library’s comprehensive collection are you reading over Spring Break?

Sincerely,
A Novel Question

Jorge Amado’s “Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands,” Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History,” and “The Wit and Wisdom of Rodney Frelinghuysen” — the first book with zero pages!

 

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
On April 11, the Montclair Justice Coalition hosted a forum on our town’s affordable-housing crisis. As new pricey units proliferate downtown, what’s the solution?

Sincerely,
Abby Abode

The less-affluent could live in Calico Critter houses, but those plastic toy buildings are so small for human habitation that they become nothing more than weird-looking Easter bonnets.

 

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Some of downtown’s upscale units could be in a “redeveloped” Lackawanna Plaza, which still doesn’t have a supermarket to replace the departed Pathmark.

Sincerely,
Right a Shop Wrong

Is a certain local developer spending Spring Break taking selfies next to its huge bank account?

 

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Meanwhile, April 18 was National Columnists Day!

Sincerely,
Keyboard of Education

Dang — why wasn’t there a Local Columnists Day?

 

Dave Astor, author, is the MontClairVoyant. His opinions about politics and local events are strictly his own and do not represent or reflect the views of Baristanet.

 

 

 

 

30 Comments

  1. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  April 22, 2017 @ 9:35 pm

    Yes, April is The Foolish Month.

    This might be the most inept Planning Board we have had in recent memory. They don’t even now how to hold a public hearing. It is so Trump-like. Just the times.

  2. POSTED BY daveastor  |  April 23, 2017 @ 9:31 am

    Thanks for commenting, Frank!

    I definitely disagree with the overdevelopment tendencies of the current Planning Board. (Even as the current board feels it’s allowing better overdevelopment than past PBs; maybe marginally better, but still too much.)

    As for ineptitude, and ineptitude compared to past PBs, I can’t say. I go to many Board of Education meetings and some Township Council meetings, but have attended only a few PB meetings over the years. Just not enough time. 🙁 I read stories about the PB meetings instead.

  3. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  April 23, 2017 @ 5:40 pm

    the current board feels it’s allowing better overdevelopment than past PBs

    You have clearly watched enough PB meetings or your reading of people is a natural gift.

  4. POSTED BY daveastor  |  April 23, 2017 @ 8:19 pm

    Kind of you to say that, Frank. Thank you!

  5. POSTED BY Bailey213  |  April 23, 2017 @ 8:21 pm

    A Trader Joes in Lackwanna Plaza would be wonderful!

  6. POSTED BY daveastor  |  April 23, 2017 @ 8:36 pm

    Frank, I know you already know this, but an example of maybe marginally better overdevelopment is the planned “arts district” project on/near Seymour Street. The complex will probably not be quite as ugly as Valley & Bloom, and it will have some open space (a plaza). Yet it will still be way too big, worsen traffic, and worsen other problems. Heck, because of the “arts district” project’s size and sprawl, it will be more burdensome to Montclair in some ways than V&B.

  7. POSTED BY frankgg  |  April 24, 2017 @ 10:46 am

    The proposed overdevelopment in the (inappropriate) current Master Plan is infeasible because it just won’t fit into the current infrastructure of roads, water and sewers… It just won’t work in my opinion, and they are going to go crashing into an economic roadblock eventually. Who is overseeing all of this? Who is responsible? They need to show what the plan is going to be for the new infrastructures and how much that this “April Fools” going to cost the taxpayers.

  8. POSTED BY daveastor  |  April 24, 2017 @ 10:53 am

    Thanks for commenting, Bailey213!

    I love Trader Joe’s, for its food and its reasonable prices. But I think a larger, “full service” supermarket (like ShopRite) would be better for Lackawanna Plaza. The neighborhood needs that.

  9. POSTED BY frankgg  |  April 24, 2017 @ 10:57 am

    Whatever supermarket goes back into Lackawanna Plaza, I just hope that there is the same friendliness and fabulous Rhythm & Blues music like the old Pathmark. I LOVED the atmosphere and actually miss it.

  10. POSTED BY daveastor  |  April 24, 2017 @ 11:06 am

    Well said, frankgg!

    As you note, it’s hard to imagine how Montclair’s current infrastructure is going to handle all the downtown overdevelopment. And there will be more students in schools, and perhaps the hiring of more police and firefighters. All not inexpensive for taxpayers.

    And we shouldn’t hold our breaths about developers chipping in much funding when infrastructure upgrades are needed. They could certainly afford to help more, but they prefer to stick taxpayers with those bills while they profit from the overdevelopment.

    Yes, more transparency is needed BEFORE these projects are built. And township leaders/officials could rein in developers more (even if the township doesn’t own much of the being-developed/redeveloped/overdeveloped land). Instead, some Montclair leaders/officials are enabling all this.

  11. POSTED BY daveastor  |  April 24, 2017 @ 11:14 am

    frankgg, the friendliness and the music ARE things to be missed.

    I shop at Acme (it’s close to where I live). Some employees are friendly, others not so much. And the music is mostly repetitive and not that interesting; the store plays some sort of music network designed for supermarkets.

  12. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  April 24, 2017 @ 2:33 pm

    I guess the question boils down to what is too much development & where?

    Our overall municipal strategy is to increase density to achieve the goal of more ratables per acre. Looking at estimated population density and the anecdotal revenue projections, we are succeeding.

    The way the State redevelopment laws are written, combined with Montclair’s approach, we only examine each project on a stand-alone basis. Residents aren’t presented the combined, full impact.

    For example, Manhattan’s population density is 111 residents/acre. Brooklyn’s is 57 residents/acre. Montclair Center’s existing zoning projects to 88 residents/acre* (if a developer can find parking). Part of the current review to revise our Master Plan has included discussion of raising the allowed density number.

    However, the 4 redevelopment projects, completed or actively in the pipeline, overcome the parking constraint and provide an overall density of 98 residents/acre. This is achieved because these redevelopments will add over 2,100 parking spaces, all within 1 block of Bloomfield Avenue. The traffic impact of these developments is reduced by the plans assuming 60% of residents will leave there cars at home during the weekday.

    All in all, the projects will result in about a 5% population increase (1,800) concentrated within their 18 acres. Because we expect maybe 1 of every 12 units (worse case) having school age children, the argument is the gain in municipal property revenues should offset the increase to the school levy.

    In highly concentrating this density increase along the Bloomfield Avenue corridor – an admittedly small portion of the Township – we have a clear line of demarcation where the suburbs meets the city. However, I understand we are revising the Master Plan to both expand Montclair Center’s boundaries and also create adjacent, increased density transitional zones. If so, it may tip the scale to overdevelopment. Who can know?

    ,i>* I am using a generic 1.6 people per housing unit – a figure I derived from Township study of the Seymour St. project.

  13. POSTED BY daveastor  |  April 24, 2017 @ 3:04 pm

    Thank you, Frank, for that expert, valuable information!

    A couple of things in your interesting comment particularly grabbed me:

    1. Downtown Montclair might end up having more population density than Brooklyn? Wow! (I realize you’re not talking about all of Montclair, and, of course, Brooklyn has some sections that are almost suburban.)

    2. And you make a terrific point about how there is an effort to expand what is downtown Montclair (an unfortunate effort in my opinion). Certainly the “arts district” project has plenty of proposed density that doesn’t even touch Bloomfield Avenue.

  14. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  April 24, 2017 @ 3:12 pm

    FYI, Montclair overall, & excluding all parks, is 10 people/acre.

  15. POSTED BY daveastor  |  April 24, 2017 @ 4:03 pm

    Thanks, Frank, for another interesting piece of information! So, the way downtown development is going, the contrast between the density there and the density in Montclair’s more “bucolic” sections will be huge!

  16. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  April 24, 2017 @ 4:26 pm

    I don’t know about huge, but definitely urban.

  17. POSTED BY frankgg  |  April 24, 2017 @ 6:13 pm

    Yes…huge, out of character, non feasible and unacceptable.

  18. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  April 24, 2017 @ 8:14 pm

    Garçon, garçon! Une table pour un groupe de 3 s’il vous plaît.

    Bien sûr, nous avons une belle table ici réservée aux amis du Planning Board … juste à côté de la cuisine. Prendre plaisir!

  19. POSTED BY daveastor  |  April 24, 2017 @ 8:15 pm

    Frank R. — yes, urban. Bloomfield Avenue will no longer look like a relatively typical suburban main street. More like a newer-looking version of some streets in Brooklyn, Queens, and The Bronx.

    frankgg — yes, all of what you said. Unacceptable to almost everyone except a few people, but those people are the developers and some township officials who can ignore majority opinion and make this happen. 🙁

  20. POSTED BY daveastor  |  April 24, 2017 @ 8:18 pm

    Frank, I wish my French professor wife was here to translate! I’m understanding your first paragraph but not quite getting your second. 🙂

  21. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  April 24, 2017 @ 8:53 pm

    “Of course, we have a nice table here reserved for the friends of the Planning Board … right next to the kitchen. Enjoy!”

  22. POSTED BY daveastor  |  April 24, 2017 @ 9:37 pm

    Love it! Thanks for the translation, Frank!

  23. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  April 25, 2017 @ 8:24 am

    Giving credit where it is due, I really like the experts the Planning Board & Council has hired. The latest, the LEED (sustainability) is another winner. I hope he sticks around.

  24. POSTED BY daveastor  |  April 25, 2017 @ 9:50 am

    Frank, there are definitely some experts giving advice. But, ultimately, most decisions still circle around to overdevelopment. Overdevelopment with perhaps some “green” aspects, which is kind of an oxymoron or whatever the word is!

  25. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  April 25, 2017 @ 11:53 am

    I’m obviously not linking the two as redevelopment is an issue of policy & execution and I’m speaking to the need for acquiring the expertise.

    Montclair is rightly trying to incorporate sustainable design into the mainstream of all development projects, on par with height, massing, parking, etc. We are early in our learning curve as evidenced by the weakness of the language used in the Seymour Redevelopment Plan. While the execution for Seymour will probably underachieve (vs. expectations), the practical knowledge and insights gained through the process – if institutionalized – will advance the initiative for future development plans and projects.

    Another example, Seymour is our first plan with language that addresses the issue of light pollution. The objective was not to be definitive, but to start gaining the experience and understanding from these real-world, multi-faceted projects that will result in specific, future refinements with hopefully measurable benefits.

    All of our boards & commissions should avail themselves more to use the developer escrow fees to hire the subject matter expertise to supplement the planning & review processes. The Board of Adjustment and the HPC in particular. The Council may have to look again at the escrow fee levels for increases to facilitate a more level playing field.

  26. POSTED BY daveastor  |  April 25, 2017 @ 1:09 pm

    I hear you, Frank. If there’s going to be overdevelopment, I’d rather it be environmentally conscious than not, but there’s still some irony there. 🙂 If development were more modest, with more open space and fewer strains on township infrastructure, Planet Earth would be more pleased.

    If I’m remembering correctly, the currently stalled Lorraine Avenue project in/near the Upper Montclair Business District brought on some discussion of light pollution, but I’m not sure if there was any specific language in the plan about that.

    Thanks for your comment and for sharing your knowledge!

  27. POSTED BY daveastor  |  April 26, 2017 @ 10:12 am

    One cost of overdevelopment: “…the code enforcement office adds six new employees – two full-time, four part-time – to handle the growing amount of construction in town.” (From Steven Maginnis’ Baristanet story about last night’s Township Council meeting: https://baristanet.com/2017/04/montclair-council-passes-2017-municipal-budget/ )

  28. POSTED BY daveastor  |  April 26, 2017 @ 10:42 am

    Correction: the story I linked to above has a co-byline of Liz George and Steven Maginnis!

  29. POSTED BY deadeye  |  April 26, 2017 @ 12:51 pm

    Seems like someone has a vision of turning Montclair into White Plains.

  30. POSTED BY daveastor  |  April 26, 2017 @ 1:06 pm

    Exactly, deadeye!

    Montclair is being turned into a small city (at least in the downtown area). Very profitable for developers — and I doubt any of them live close enough to Bloomfield Avenue to be personally affected most of the time by their overbuilding.

    Thanks for commenting!

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