Montclair First Ward Councilor William Hurlock had numerous guests to join him at his October 19 community meeting at the Bellevue Avenue Library branch, but despite the array of topics covered, constituents’ concerns still came down to two central issue: traffic and pedestrian safety.
Officer Travis Davis of the Montclair Police Department’s community policing unit was on hand to address the many concerns about traffic. He said the traffic bureau has made more of an effort to enforce ordinances pertaining to motor vehicles and will soon add another officer to its ranks, but he conceded that budget restrictions and a lack of available personnel made enforcement difficult. “Our traffic unit is only going to get bigger and bigger as our resources allow for that to happen,” he said. Office Davis also said radar was being used to monitor areas of concern in the township, and he noted that police officers are helping with enforcement through overtime, between 4 P.M. and 8 P.M., paid though grants the township has received.
Constituents brought up many of the same problems that have surfaced at council meetings, notably motorists who pass to the right of cars stopped for pedestrians and motorists who fail to stop at “perceived crosswalks” – intersections with no designated crosswalks at the corners. One resident said the law requires motorists to stop where people cross streets at such intersections if there is a person waiting to cross, but Officer Davis said he heard of no such law.
Councilor Hurlock said there was a need for motorists and pedestrians to show respect for each other, and he expressed a desire to see pedestrians take more responsibility for their actions. The councilor cited a bill before the legislature, the Driver and Pedestrian Mutual Responsibility Act, which would make it plain that pedestrians can only cross at designated crosswalks, saying that shifting greater responsibility to the pedestrian should be considered. He said Montclair doesn’t have the money to add more blinking-light signs to intersections and that pedestrians should take more care in crossing the street and look for oncoming traffic, as he learned to do when he was growing up.
One resident said she knew a woman who comes from Columbia, Missouri, which applied for and got grants to educate locals about pedestrians’ responsibilities and she suggested that Montclair look into the idea. Motorists who passed cars stopped for pedestrians on the right were another concern, voiced at the October 3 council meeting, and Councilor-at-Large Rich McMahon, who attended Councilor Hurlock’s meeting, pointed out that such illegal passing was a greater concern than the speed limit on Grove Street. Councilor Hurlock continued to stress that traffic-safety ordinances already on the books need to be enforced more, and he also said there was no quick fix to the pedestrian issue, saying that the town needed to be much more involved.
The infrastructure of the streets themselves was another issue. Councilor Hurlock reported that more streets were steadily being resurfaced and/or re-curbed, but he remained frustrated with dealing with PSE&G to avoid newly paved streets being opened up by the utility. He told an anecdote of how the township cleared street repairs with PSE&G before going ahead with such repairs, only to have PSE&G dig up newly redone streets. It turned out the councilor and the township manager’s office had communicated with PSE&G’s electric unit, which had completed its work in Montclair where streets had been redone, but not with its gas unit, which had more work to do. Councilor Hurlock told residents at the meeting that neither unit of the utility communicates with each other. He also got pleas from constituents that vegetation obscuring signs and traffic lights ought to pared down.
The councilor’s special guests briefed the constituents on other issues. Ilmar Vanderer, a trustee of the Montclair Public Library, explained the New Jersey Library Construction Bond Act, which is up for a referendum vote on the ballot this November 7. The referendum would allow the state to sell bonds totaling $125 million to distribute as grants to libraries across New Jersey to allow them to upgrade and modernize their facilities. Vanderer also noted that a grant from such a program would allow the Bellevue Avenue branch of the library to get an elevator and become more compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Although Vanderer could not tell people how to vote, he said he wanted to explain the issue to the constituents.
On the subject of the library, Kathleen Bennett of the Montclair Historic Preservation Commission reported on the progress of the restoration to the Bellevue Avenue branch, clearly obvious from the plywood in place on the older windows. She said the new windows will be able to be opened and that the frames – painted a greenish teal – were proven to have been more of an antique white. She said that grills had been on the front double door and hoped the money could be found to restore it to its original look. She said that the double door itself might be replaced.
Helen Fallon of the Montclair History Center informed the constituents of upcoming events, including a walking tour of Rosedale Cemetery on October 29, a restaurant-foodie walking tour on November 5, and historic-house tours on November 12 (all Sundays). Also, Republican candidates for the state Assembly representing the 34th district, Nicholas Surgent and Tafari Anderson, introduced themselves to the audience. Surgent and Anderson, both Clifton residents, said they were running for the seats in the district, which includes all of Montclair, to help improve schools and do something about property taxes. Councilor Hurlock had invited their Democratic opponents, incumbents Sheila Oliver (who is concurrently running for lieutenant governor) and Thomas Giblin, to the meeting as well, but both were unable to come.
Also, Councilor Hurlock also announced that the groundbreaking for Clifton’s sewer pipe project through the Bonsal Preserve should occur in a week or so. He had been in contact with Clifton Councilman Ray Grabowski over the plans to get the project started. “We’re going to keep our fingers crossed,” he said.