MontClairVoyant: You’ll See What ELA Stands For When You Sit Down to Read This

BY  |  Thursday, Oct 19, 2017 1:30pm  |  COMMENTS (85)


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

ELA! What does it stand for?

Sincerely,
Not Electric Light Orchestra

English Language Arts, and Extra-Large Atrocities built by developers in Montclair.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Can we first talk about the latest way-too-big project before discussing the new Extremely Lopped Authors (ELA) curriculum and other things that came up at Monday’s Board of Education meeting?

Sincerely,
Held 15 Days Before Halloween

Sure! A developer wants to replace the car wash and car-rental place at Grove and Walnut with an oversized, mediocre-looking retail/office structure. He’s also known for demolishing the historic Marlboro Inn to build those huge Christopher Court houses, and for hosting Most Variances Palooza.


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

What a festival! For his Grove/Walnut project, that developer wants a variance to create only 50 parking spaces despite 82 being required. Plus that project would make an already busy area CRAZY busy with even more traffic — in a locale near train tracks. Would an approval again Exemplify Leadership Abdication (ELA)?

Sincerely,
Parking Paucity

You betcha, with one silver lining: Grove Pharmacy would do a bang-up business selling tranquilizers to people driving north on Grove after they finally get past Walnut.


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

At Oct. 16’s BOE meeting, there was plenty of public criticism of the new English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum that calls for students to read fewer novels and more short things. I know you devoted a whole column to that last week, but do you have anything to add?

Sincerely,
Test-Preppy Approach

Reading full novels is educational, pleasurable, helps teach empathy, and helps students develop more of an attention span in this digital age of short content. Speaking of that, my previous sentence can be summarized as “novels: good.”


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

If the BOE and the school district listened more to teachers (as various Oct. 16 attendees requested), we’d get Education-Lesson Awesomeness (ELA), right? Teachers are on “the front lines,” and know what’s best for students!

Sincerely,
Peta Gogy

Far from “the front lines” is PARCC test pusher Pearson, a company known as England’s Least Asset (ELA).


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Wasn’t a highlight of the meeting BOE member Eve Robinson responding to the interim superintendent’s annual PARCC report by eloquently slamming those exams for being bad, for wasting precious learning time, etc.?

Sincerely,
Stan Dardized-Nonsense

Yes! Those detested tests are reportedly now given in just five states — down from 20-plus! — and hopefully a new governor will help get rid of them in Jersey, too. I won’t rest until the PARCCs are in minus-five states (Pearson math).


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Shorter ELA readings in middle school, and now school-district enforcement of shorter maternity leaves. Any connection between those negative developments?

Sincerely,
Non-Progressive Moves

Exhausted parents of newborns might mistake the title of James Michener’s “Tales of the South Pacific” for “Wails of Those Who Mouth Pacifiers.” Oops — that wordplay was pathetic, goshdarnit.


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Hey! Watch your language!

Sincerely,
On TV or Your Phone

Just keep your Ears Locked, Always (ELA).

 

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.

 

 

 

 

85 Comments

  1. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 19, 2017 @ 2:13 pm

    Re: new Grove/Walnut St development

    I understand the development argument for the configuration. I also know that our land use boards have recently approved similar configurations (e.g. Georgian Inn). I also understand a parking lot in the front yard conflicts with our Master Plan objectives. I also know that the configuration has the basic elements of a strip mall.

    I’m guessing the Street Wall mandate will be sent to the land use closet and replaced with the “it’s better than what’s there”, get-out-of Master Plan jail card.

  2. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 19, 2017 @ 2:42 pm

    Thanks, Frank! Very well said!

    You’re right that there’s precedent for this sort of thing in Montclair, but I wonder when (or if) this kind of development ever stops. After all, a dozen (a number I just pulled out of the air) of these kinds of projects is a lot worse than three or four (another number I just pulled out of the air). Plus the Grove/Walnut proposal would be in an already-congested section of Montclair — more congested, for instance, than the not-uncongested area near the Georgian Inn.

    I realize what’s there now at Grove/Walnut isn’t that visually pleasing, but something like a car-rental place is useful. Plus what’s there now is small-scale enough not to overcrowd that area.

  3. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 19, 2017 @ 2:56 pm

    Thank you for the link, Professor Wagstaff! I LOVE the Marx Brothers, the “Horse Feathers” movie, and that “(Whatever It Is) I’m Against It” song.

    I’m not against all development, but I’m against most new development in Montclair. Our town is already almost “built out,” so why don’t those developers concentrate on less-crowded towns? Or, if they’re going to build in Montclair, build on a more modest scale. They’ll still make a profit — just not as much. And maybe some housing for not-that-affluent people, beyond the tiny number of mandated affordable units? And some stores geared to the not-that affluent?

    I also love The Marx Brothers’ “Duck Soup,” “Monkey Business,” “A Night at the Opera,” etc. But overdevelopment in Montclair makes me as grouchy as Groucho. 🙂

  4. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 19, 2017 @ 3:09 pm

    Professor Wagstaff, it just occurred to me that you might be against the Grove/Walnut project like I am, rather than using the video clip to humorously criticize my “I’m Against It” anti-development stance. If you’d like, please let me know what your intention was. 🙂 Thank you!

  5. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 19, 2017 @ 3:26 pm

    Dave,

    The fact of the matter is the collective “we”, via the Master Plan, supported this level of development and provided fair warning that properties within the numerous ¼ & ½ mile bullseyes (Transit Oriented Development areas) would be actively supported. Besides the Seymour (partial), Lackawanna, Eastern Gateway, and Mountainside Hospital redevelopment projects, Mr Plofker now has added his 3 projects to this Transit Village bullseye. Others sure to follow.

    The whole exercise was to encourage development while preserving the character of the residential zones. That was the deal. The give and take. All along, the ever-present power of “market pressure” was acknowledged, but would be kept at bay or contained within these bullseyes. Now we want to add accessory dwelling units to the residential zones. We are rezoning formerly residential zones into mixed-use zones. We still believe traffic congestion will not spill across these neat little bullseyes.

    Our only remaining option is to make this development as attractive as we can. Personally, I set my Maginot Line at not allowing front yard parking. We know how effective that turned out to be. Oh well.

    Well, you’re ok with Accessory Dwelling Units.

  6. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 19, 2017 @ 3:47 pm

    I hear you, Frank, but I’m not sure how democratic the Master Plan process was. Sure, there was public input, and possible overdevelopment was scaled back in/near Watching Plaza and the Upper Montclair Business District. But much of “we” the public wanted little or no overdevelopment, and that was ignored in the Master Plan process.

    Yes, the Master Plan allows overdevelopment in certain transit areas, but several projects — including Valley & Bloom (which predated the current Master Plan), the Seymour “arts district,” and the Lackawanna redo — are either fairly far from train stations or just sort of close to train stations, not right next to them. I guess Grove/Walnut proposal is quite close to Walnut Street Station.

    Very residential zones were indeed spared in the new Master Plan, but there are still plenty of houses near where projects such as the Lackawanna redo and Seymour will be.

    And you’re right that it would help (a little) if various proposed projects were more attractive rather than probably built on the cheap.

    I have some sympathy for the concept of Accessory Dwelling Units, but, as we discussed under another column, I’d hope ADUs were limited — if that were legally possible.

  7. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 19, 2017 @ 3:49 pm

    “Watching” should be “Watchung.” Darn autocorrect on my Safari browser…

  8. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 19, 2017 @ 6:12 pm

    I appreciate the value seniors add to our diversity…even supporting their housing in Montclair Center. This Council decided only full-functioning seniors should live downtown. The less-thane full-functioning seniors should live in the residential zones. I see their logic. There is a limit to how much seniors, relative to other age groups, can contribute.

    I also have sympathy for the twin objectives espoused – more affordable rentals and subsidizing home-owning seniors to help them remain in their homes longer. If the broad support is there to expand these public policies then we should look at the range of options, including rent control.

    Unfortunately, ADUs clearly will not provide the former and there are other, more equitable methods & controls to ensure the latter. And no, you can not limit it. That would be blatant infringement on property rights.

    But, we are will attempt to wrap this up into as many public benefits as can be found and assurances that this is the one public policy that has no detriments. It’s a win-win.

  9. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 19, 2017 @ 6:25 pm

    Interesting points, Frank. If not ADUs, it certainly would be nice if other ways were found to keep more senior citizens in town. Heck, if there are going to be 280 housing units at the redeveloped Lackawanna Plaza, why not some dedicated senior units? The answer, of course — not as profitable for developers, because many rents for senior units would have to be lower than for non-senior units.

    Heck, most Montclair housing is so expensive that it’s hard for another group of seniors (fourth-year college students) to return to town after graduation. And then there are those PhDs: Plofker housing Developments and Pinnacle housing Developments…

  10. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 19, 2017 @ 10:02 pm

    Yes. Affordable senior housing above a full-service supermarket with pharmacy, tax prep services, banking and a liquor store would solve a lot of needs.

  11. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 19, 2017 @ 10:11 pm

    Nicely put, Frank! A perfect fit — though perhaps the liquor store would not be absolutely necessary… 🙂

  12. POSTED BY parkour  |  October 20, 2017 @ 9:57 am

    Dave or Frank,

    Somehow, despite following development and planning board meeting closely I seemed to have missed this Walnut?Grove Proposal – Where can I find details?

  13. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 20, 2017 @ 10:32 am
  14. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 20, 2017 @ 10:38 am

    Thanks for asking, parkour! I was just about to post the link when I saw that Frank had done that. 🙂 Thanks, Frank!

  15. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 20, 2017 @ 10:41 am

    And, Frank, I think Montclair already has enough liquor stores. I’m not a drinker myself, though I do enjoy tap water here and there… 🙂

  16. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 20, 2017 @ 11:16 am

    Dave,

    Large redevelopment projects like ours tend to add retail uses that already exist. They replace more than they add in this regard. The number of alcohol distribution licenses are fixed and there are several existing that will entertain selling their license for the right price. I fully expect a volume-oriented, chain liquor store here. While the government’s support of the medical industry’s pedaling of opioids is dominating the news cycles, this may be eye-opening to some:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/08/11/study-one-in-eight-american-adults-are-alcoholics/?utm_term=.e5be503f5030

    I regret treating the subject lightly. That was really stupid on my part. My apologies.

    Maybe the redevelopment plan should be revised to prohibit alcohol distribution as a permitted use.

  17. POSTED BY flipside  |  October 20, 2017 @ 11:31 am

    The Plofker proposal looks good to me. Whether you like development or not you have have to admit Plofker does some good work. I didn’t like in Marlboro Inn fiasco but in the end he didn’t develop it…he sold it off. He appears to be sinking a ton of cash into the Montclair Inn and I wish him well there. I see a lot of complaining about development in town but I don’t see the complainers coming forward and risking their money to invest in Montclair. Pot shots are free so keep firing away. No one is listening. For better or worse Montclair is a hot town and will keep changing until the money runs dry. For the record, I think some of the develop is a bit unsightly but I tip my hat to anyone willing to take on the stress and invest their time and money to build something. Last election the town voted for development and now we got it. No one is stopping the arbiters of good taste from jumping on the band wagon and making the big bucks.

  18. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 20, 2017 @ 2:31 pm

    Terrific point, Frank! Many of the new projects often DO add retailers Montclair already has. (In some cases, more “upscale” versions.)

    I knew the number of liquor licenses for restaurants and such was limited; I didn’t realize there was a limit to liquor stores, too, if I’m understanding your comment correctly. (Please correct me if I’m not. 🙂 ) You know a lot about a lot! In my opinion, the less alcohol available, the better.

    And there was no problem at all with your humor!!!

    Unfortunately, I couldn’t read your link because I’ve reach my Washington Post free article limit for the month. 🙁 But from the words in the URL, I’m shocked so many Americans might be alcoholics.

    Now I’ll write my reply to flipside…

  19. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 20, 2017 @ 2:33 pm

    …”reach” should be “reached” in my Washington Post line…

  20. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 20, 2017 @ 2:59 pm

    Thanks for your comment, flipside! Well said, and you made some good points.

    I think Mr. Plofker’s developments look okay — certainly better than Pinnacle’s — but not as aesthetically pleasing as they could be. I guess it’s all relative. And, unfortunately, the building density he tries to squeeze into relatively small spaces detracts from the look. For instance, the Christopher Court development that replaced the demolished Marlboro Inn might look pretty good with six shorter houses (surrounded by more open space) rather than 10 tall houses. And, yes, he did sell off the CC property before it was developed, but it was built using his basic blueprint.

    The last election? The mayor is indeed pro-overdevelopment, and has apparently been a developer himself. Some people may have voted for him because of the development part of his platform, but I think many others voted for him because he’s competent, works hard, etc. Plus he had no opposition in 2016.

    He did have competition in 2012, but many people may have voted for Mr. Jackson back then as a “less worse” candidate rather than because he was pro-overdevelopment. And I think many voters in 2012 didn’t know just how huge things like the Seymour “arts district” and Lackawanna Plaza redo would be.

    The Georgian Inn development? I haven’t really criticized it my column; I hope it comes out looking decent.

    You wrote “I see a lot of complaining about development in town but I don’t see the complainers coming forward and risking their money to invest in Montclair.” That might be because the complainers, even if they were rich enough to build things, don’t want to see overdevelopment. 🙂

    Thanks again!

  21. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 20, 2017 @ 3:08 pm

    My comment reflected a level of ignorance and casualness that I regret. Here is other coverage of the same report. It is disturbing.

    http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/10/health/drinking-alcoholism-study-trnd/index.html

  22. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 20, 2017 @ 3:47 pm

    Thanks for that alternate link, Frank!

    The number of Americans with alcohol problems really IS surprising and dismaying. I’m guessing there are various reasons for so much drinking — all the alcohol-related advertising, high levels of depression, loneliness, the stress to succeed, living life without a strong safety net (for medical expenses and so on), etc.

    (I still had no problem with your comment. Joking about serious things is okay with me to make a point when no specific person is being made fun of.)

  23. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 20, 2017 @ 4:09 pm

    No one is stopping the arbiters of good taste…

    Arbiters of good taste? Not me. I’m citing our development authorities & Master Plan.

    Ignoring the pretty brick face finish & little flourishes, it is a 2 story mass set back 75’ from the streetscape. On the 2 primary elevations, each shows a running 150’ of asphalt parking & drive lanes streetscape fronting the building. While you think that looks good, our local authorities have repeatedly told us that is not good land use. Not good at all. The term they use is ‘a deleterious use’.

    These are the same authorities who said, for Lackawanna, that a parking lot fronting on Bloomfield Avenue was not good land use and would not contribute aesthetically. The same authorities who wrote the Gateway 2 Plan saying the parking lot on the corner of Valley Rd & Bloomfield Ave was an inappropriate use.

    I have no issue with Mr Plofker building to maximum potential. This is zoned for 3 stories at minimal cost. He can utilize the allowed height to retain the same density/uses, maybe even eliminate the 1st floor office variance and be true to the Master Plan.

    Or, we can just revise the Master Plan to eliminate these conflicting passages. Either one works for me.

  24. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 20, 2017 @ 4:13 pm

    Dave,

    The positive news in the report says there is good progress in steps to lower the risk factors.

  25. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 20, 2017 @ 4:40 pm

    Glad there might be some progress, Frank.

  26. POSTED BY Professor Wagstaff  |  October 20, 2017 @ 6:28 pm

    Dave
    I think Groucho has you nailed. Whatever it is, you’re against it.
    The on-going redevelopment in Montclair has its challenges and has to be done well. Sure. Even Zeppo could figure that out.
    However, what makes Montclair a dynamic and interesting place is that it changes and grows. And people really want to live here and be here for entertainment. Thats a good thing. Come to Church Street on a Saturday night and its not the State Room scene (thank goodness) but its alive and fun. Montclair is the downtown of suburban Essex County. And a lot of us like that.
    In reality, the changes are largely along the Bloomfield Avenue corridor, which was obsolete, boring and required redevelopment and some density in order to come back. There is nothing wrong with some Margaret Dumont sized development along the Avenue and the major commercial streets.
    Lighten up on the redevelopment of town. Stop villifying people who make things happen in town and have brought a lot of life and vibrancy here. Tell us something you like once in a while.
    And if that doesnt work, try relocating to Fredonia.

  27. POSTED BY jcunningham  |  October 20, 2017 @ 6:41 pm

    @daveastor:

    “But much of “we” the public wanted little or no overdevelopment”

    —first, nice rhetorical flourish there with the use of “overdevelopment”, as if it’s not strictly your characterization. but as for the bulk of your assertion about “much” of the public—a tired, worn little trope, btw—prove it.

  28. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 20, 2017 @ 7:36 pm

    Professor Wagstaff, I enjoyed how you said what you said even more than some people enjoy “two hard-boiled eggs.” 🙂 So clever!

    You pointed out that I “harp” on development (I’m paraphrasing there). I’m not against some development — downtown, elsewhere in Montclair, or on the set of “You Bet Your Life.” But I’m against the massive scale of some projects — individually (as Groucho was a game-show host) and collectively (as in Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and sometimes Zeppo). If developers built a much-smaller-scale Lackawanna Plaza redo, Seymour “arts district, and (as we “Go West”) Valley & Bloom, and a less-tall “MC” hotel, and included more affordable elements in all those projects to be more in the spirit of Montclair, I’d be “Love Happy” — or at least less annoyed. Instead, it’s “A Day (and week and month and year and decade) at the Races” to make maximum profit while creating problems such as more Bloomfield Avenue traffic that would make it hard to be on time for a theoretical showing of “Animal Crackers” at the Clairidge.

    I’ve been in Montclair since 1993 — 16 years after Groucho died — and you’re right that Bloomfield Avenue perhaps used to be too low-key. (Albeit not as quiet as Harpo.) Now the pendulum is swinging too far in the other direction.

    For developers, the secret word is…”profit.” Actually, not so secret. Some profit — good. Too much profit at the expense of our town’s livability — not good. At least “The MC” hotel will have…”Room Service.”

  29. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 20, 2017 @ 7:49 pm

    Thanks, jcunningham! I appreciate your comment. You bring up a good point — how to prove how many Montclair residents are for and how many are against what I call “overdevelopment” and what other people might just call “development.”

    Unless there’s some sort of town-wide referendum (and even that kind of vote wouldn’t have a 100% turnout), I have to go on anecdotal evidence. I’ve attended Township Council and Planning Board meetings where many more people spoke against overdevelopment than for development. Similar ratio in social-media comments I’ve read, and in my in-person and email talks with residents.

    But I can’t prove a vast majority against overdevelopment, just as I imagine it would be hard for you to prove a vast majority in favor of the development we’re getting. Well, a vast majority (100%) of profit-driven developers are for it. 🙂

    Thanks again for your thoughts!

  30. POSTED BY parkour  |  October 20, 2017 @ 8:20 pm

    Thanks for sending the article Frank. Yup…your right…agita indeed. I find it hard to believe that we are going to tear down four structures and that violate all considerations of street side surface parking and stratal continuity, only to erect a new structure that does the same exact thing! Come on already. I am in the “it’s better than what is there crowd” but Pfloker is better than this. I truly love the idea of more density and retail around Walnut and I can’t believe that the developers have been this slow to capitalize in what could be a much better, transit based residential neighborhood.

    This should be 3 stories and come right out to the sidewalk. I like the idea of the mini plazz up front…although I would vary the brick in that area as it resembles a 70-80’s brutalist look with the flag pole in a brick rectangle in the vein of the awful post office on Glenridge Avenue. I often look at the strip mall up on Bloomfiled on the way to Bloomfield with the 7-11 and Panera and think…for a strip mall…the architecture is not bad…and if that aesthetic and scale were applied to Walnut….with all the parking in the back…we may have something. Hopefully the planning board can work some magic and shake some sense into this design with violates rule number one of creating a walkable and desirable streetscape…..NEVER PUT THE CARS UP FRONT AND INTERUPT THE FRONTAGE SIDEWALK WITH CURB CUTS!!!

  31. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 20, 2017 @ 11:14 pm

    parkour,

    More agita…it’s before the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

    No offense to the ZBA, but, to tell the truth & shame the devil, their strength is not design standards.

  32. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 21, 2017 @ 6:47 am

    Frank, I know I should know this, but why do some projects end up in front of the Zoning Board rather than the Planning Board?

    And well said, parkour. With the cars unfortunately up front in the current proposal, I hope all the vehicles look better by getting washed before they’re parked there. Oops, the car wash would be demolished…

  33. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 21, 2017 @ 12:46 pm

    When an applicant wants permission for a use that is prohibited in a zone, a ‘D’ variance, it goes to the ZBA. In this application, Mr Plofker wants 2 variances – one for ground office use on the back side of the building and one to reclassify a lot to commercial. I think it is a strong prima facia case.

  34. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 21, 2017 @ 1:00 pm

    Thank you, Frank! I appreciate the clear explanation!

  35. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 21, 2017 @ 1:13 pm

    And to parkour, the Planning Board, and the Council, this application is the textbook case the infamous and derided parking study had in mind when it suggested changing parking requirements. Things like halving them, switching to maximum from minimum requirements and instituting for fee schedules over and under supply.

    I also recall the great harrumphing about the parking variance approval rate was 48% and the study said it was unlikely to change. Well, Mr Plofker’s recent projects – and he is the biggest developer excluding the Township & Pinnacle – are averaging 42%. That’s lower than the national standards and lower than shared parking standards.

    Well, we didn’t pursue it and it has gone away. What has not gone away, and this application is Exhibit A, is that the Planning Board got it wrong with he parking study. For that alone, the ZBA should give Mr Plofker his parking variance.

  36. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 22, 2017 @ 10:34 am

    And no way would I support a drive-thru use.

  37. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 22, 2017 @ 10:41 am
  38. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 22, 2017 @ 11:10 am

    Yikes, Frank — I haven’t seen “Jaws” in a LONG time. Edgemont Pond is looking very good in comparison…

  39. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 22, 2017 @ 1:13 pm

    Maybe watch the clip again. The substitute sound track is funny in a manner analogous to the genre. But, and to my point, people often hear what they are conditioned to hear – even when their eyes say otherwise.

    I crack myself up. Yes, party of 1.

  40. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 22, 2017 @ 4:46 pm

    Oops, Frank — I watched it without sound because I was in a public place. Will watch it again, with sound, when I’m home later!

  41. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 22, 2017 @ 6:48 pm

    Just watched it with sound, Frank. Um…incongruous music, which makes for “interesting” watching. Wonder if the shark ever became a judge on “American Idol”? 🙂

  42. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 22, 2017 @ 6:53 pm

    But, new soundtrack aside, still very painful to watch. 🙁

  43. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 22, 2017 @ 8:08 pm

    Table ready for party of 1….
    Great B movie, iconic theme song by J Williams. I tried to watch Jaws a couple of months ago and gave up. Very painful, indeed…and why ILMAO at Blue Danube ballet choreography. Sorry you didn’t see the connection.

  44. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 22, 2017 @ 8:29 pm

    Ah, I thought that song sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place it; my knowledge of classical music is not great. Thanks to your explanation, I’m now seeing the connection! Hopefully my brain will be in better working order tomorrow…

  45. POSTED BY justbob  |  October 24, 2017 @ 7:31 am

    Maybe you two could just send emails to each other.

  46. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 24, 2017 @ 8:17 am

    Ha, justbob! That was funny!

    Frank and I have actually never met — though people who have never met can obviously email each other. 🙂

    As you can see, the 40-plus comments above are a mix of serious debate (on things like development) and less serious conversation. I kind of like that combination, though I realize others might not.

    Thanks for commenting!

  47. POSTED BY flipside  |  October 24, 2017 @ 12:06 pm

    Dave….I don’t think “justbob” was trying to be funny.

  48. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 24, 2017 @ 12:25 pm

    Justbob point was well taken. My fault for degrading the conversation.

  49. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 24, 2017 @ 12:57 pm

    You may be right, flipside. It can be difficult to know whether people are joking or not when one is just seeing the written word and not tone of voice and facial expressions.

    justbob, if your comment was meant to be purely serious, I apologize for misinterpreting your intent.

    And, Frank, no harm done. It was a two-way conversation between you and I. It can be nice to have some online fun amid all the weighty stuff there is to debate in Montclair.

  50. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 24, 2017 @ 1:07 pm

    Back on topic, tonight the Council will once again introduce an ordinance to lower the speed limit on our biggest & longest North/South arterial. While an above average crowd is expected supporting the ordinance, the working assumption is that most taxpayers support the level of development Montclair is now seeing. While some portion of the crowd is likely against the amount of development, I can reasonably assume most have rationalized that they can have this level of development and safer streets. Of course, other posters have pointed and Councilors have pointed out lowering the speed limit will not increase safety and will serve to restrict capacity. Since this Council has deliberated for over a year on the topic, my guess they are ready to make the change. So, The logical next question is what remaining justification is there, if this street goes to 30 mph, for having a 35 mph speed limit anywhere else in town, on lesser streets? Or even 30 mph on these lesser streets?

    Upper Mountain Ave, where it is 30 mph, has one 2/10 mile stretch with 13 yellow caution signs for kids, speed humps, sharp curves and blind driveways. The recommended safe speed signage is 20 mph. Further, even where the speed limit is 30 mph, the incorrectly posted speed is 35 mph. Without saying so directly, the Council, by maintaining 35 mph zones here, is supporting diverting urban arterial levels of traffic through what is a 100% residential zone. The argument is that the growth in traffic from development has to go somewhere and it is better for the majority to designate these two streets as our urban arterials.

    The Township’s Master Plan gave up on addressing circulation and a plan to deal with it. So, it makes no sense to reduce the speed limit for Grove St under these circumstances. If we agree to pursue this level of development, e.g. 80,000 SF high intensity supermarket use, we can’t have our cake, too. We can pretend, but that is all we are doing.

  51. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 24, 2017 @ 1:20 pm

    The good news for those living on these arterials is that you can get a property tax reduction. Maybe we should encourage our seniors to relocate?

  52. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 24, 2017 @ 1:42 pm

    Frank, great sum-up of speeding and related issues!

    I’d be in favor of all of Montclair’s most major streets (which tend to be county roads) having 30- or even 25-mph speed limits. (Not just Grove Street.) I realize that probably wouldn’t do a lot to solve the speeding/accident problem, but even a little helps. Of course, better police enforcement, more speed humps, and other things would help, too. Some of those things would undoubtedly be expensive, but more ticketing of speeders by police would of course bring in more revenue to at least partly offset that.

    With all the development in/near downtown, I imagine speeds might become slower at times because of the sheer extra volume of cars. So, potentially safer in that respect, but tons of traffic can also lead to more accidents and pedestrian injuries.

    Your second comment? Interesting to wonder whether homeowners can successfully argue for tax reductions because of added traffic and other development-caused problems in front of/near their dwellings.

  53. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 24, 2017 @ 2:56 pm

    The new Midtown Deck design will be presented next Monday to the Planning Board. This deck, on Glenridge Ave, will replace the existing 85 spaces with 315 spaces. I would also imagine traffic will be slower and there will be more pedestrian conflicts as an absolute number. However, it will be proportionately less compared to the increased number of cars because there’ll be bigger crosswalks, more lighting, a 4-way stop intersection, less drivers circling the block looking for parking, etc.

  54. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 24, 2017 @ 3:10 pm

    I hear you, Frank. Good points.

    Replacing 85 spaces with 315 spaces IS a big jump. But is it big enough (along with other new parking) to handle all the Seymour “arts district” visitors and other drivers that the new downtown development will bring in? I guess we’ll see.

    And traffic and pedestrian upgrades would help, but those upgrades can only be partly effective with so many additional cars, residents, and visitors coming to downtown. There’s only so much room to maneuver in that part of Montclair.

  55. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 24, 2017 @ 4:25 pm

    It will be enough parking because a) market naturally self-corrects and b) there is no metric to measure equilibrium. Good news is that the sidewalks & cross walks are not anywhere need capacity. If we can get cars to stop for pedestrians (in the crosswalks) and ticket the jaywalkers, all should work out fine.

  56. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 24, 2017 @ 4:25 pm

    need=near

  57. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 24, 2017 @ 4:49 pm

    I hope you’re right, Frank! The market has a mixed record of self-correcting (whether it involves local parking, nationwide business stuff, or other things).

    And, yes, drivers should stop for pedestrians and pedestrians should cross at corners. But with so much congestion, some corners can be rather blind. For instance, when I park on Plymouth or Union, making a left turn onto Fullerton after a library visit is scary because of parked cars blocking one’s view of Fullerton traffic. And that’s BEFORE the coming Seymour “arts district” sprawl.

  58. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 24, 2017 @ 5:02 pm

    You find parking on Plymouth & Union streets? I’m impressed.

  59. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 24, 2017 @ 5:12 pm

    Ha! Not easy, especially on Plymouth. I often end up on Union about a half or two-thirds of a block west of Fullerton. That’s usually during weekday mornings or afternoons — I’m sure nights and weekends are tougher.

  60. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 24, 2017 @ 9:10 pm

    What speed behavior do we want to change? I thought we wanted people to slow down.

    So, we are going to expend all this magnificent effort to slow people down…and, unbelievably, we are going to retain the speed limit. Am I missing something? 40, 50, 60 mph is not the issue. 35 mph is the problem.

    But, as parkour keeps saying, we are car-centric, suburban, bedroom community. So, that is what it is.

  61. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 24, 2017 @ 9:11 pm

    Oh, well, 30 mph is what it is.

  62. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 24, 2017 @ 10:22 pm

    Thanks, Frank! Are your last two comments referring (at least in part) to what happened or didn’t happen at tonight’s Township Council meeting? I’m waiting to read a story about that meeting, and may comment more after I do. 🙂

  63. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 25, 2017 @ 8:46 am

    Frank, though it might help only a little, I’m glad the Township Council last night introduced an ordinance to reduce the Grove Street speed limit from 35 to 30. I hope other measures, such as more ticketing of speeders, accompany the speed reduction if it’s ultimately approved.

    Also, I wish the TC last night had agreed to close off Montclair Avenue for Halloween. I understand Montclair’s police would be stretched thin that night, but that’s too busy a street on Oct. 31 for drivers and trick-or-treaters to be mixing. Officers who would’ve been stationed in/near a closed-off Montclair Avenue could’ve always left if they had to respond to something more pressing elsewhere in town.

  64. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 25, 2017 @ 9:55 am

    I only saw parts of the meeting, but I suspect what wasn’t argued was why Grove Street should be 35mph. Based on the split vote, that would have been an interesting discussion. I would also guess that no traffic volume figures were discussed – particularly any difference in peak periods from 2012 v. 2017.

    I 100% agree with the Council on not closing Montclair Ave this year. Yes, it could be a “thing”…Montclair Ave hosts Halloween In Montclair, a running with the bulls event. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some back-channel pushback from other residents of the street.

  65. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 25, 2017 @ 10:29 am

    Frank, I would also not be surprised if there was back-channel pushback from some Montclair Avenue residents — and from residents of nearby streets that might be clogged with stymied cars and from residents of not-nearby streets who would wonder why their streets couldn’t also be closed off or who don’t want their kids flocking to Montclair Avenue.

    As for Grove Street, definitely a closer vote than usual. And the lack of traffic studies, or the lack of excellent/credible traffic studies, seems to be a Montclair tradition. 🙁

  66. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 25, 2017 @ 11:43 am

    I think the Town has more traffic data than you think. If you were to pick of the highest volume intersection in town (excluding Bloomfield Ave’s intersections), which would it be?

  67. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 25, 2017 @ 2:20 pm

    If the town has more traffic data than it seems, I wish it would publicize that data more. 🙂

    Highest-volume Montclair intersection after Bloomfield Avenue’s various ones? I would guess Valley/Bellevue — with the Watchung Plaza/Watchung Avenue morass second. Is that correct?

  68. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 25, 2017 @ 3:31 pm

    Sorry.

    #1 Watchung & Grove

    #2 Claremont & Bay

    #3-5 Valley & Normal, Mt Hebron & Bellevue (all very similar)

  69. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 25, 2017 @ 3:37 pm

    Oops. S/b Claremont & Grove.

  70. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 25, 2017 @ 4:45 pm

    Wow — some Grove intersections are BUSY! I guess Watchung/Grove is not only getting lots of Montclair traffic, but traffic to/from other towns: Clifton to/from the north, Bloomfield to/from the east, etc. — not to mention Parkway Exit 151 being at Watchung Avenue. And Valley/Normal has Montclair State.

    VERY interesting, Frank. Thanks!

  71. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 25, 2017 @ 9:31 pm

    What is interesting about the list is WHERE these intersections are. When the Town laid out where it wanted to focus development, those focus areas are do not align with most of the list of intersections above.

    This is the fundamental disconnect with our development strategy. Hence, the Council, residents, etc can be pro-development and still rail against unsafe street conditions because they don’t see any correlation.

  72. POSTED BY daveastor  |  October 25, 2017 @ 10:01 pm

    If I’m remembering right, the areas in/near the Upper Montclair Business District and Watchung Plaza (the latter of course not too far from the Watchung-Grove intersection) were up for more development in the early version of the new Master Plan before public pushback helped spike that.

    To me, overdevelopment and potentially unsafe street conditions go hand-in-hand. 🙁

  73. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  November 05, 2017 @ 11:53 am

    The Zoning Board hearing of the requested variances by Mr Plofker’s 113 Walnut St has now been bifurcated. (parkour, this is going to DRIVE you around the bend 😉 )

    The first part – the big (“D”) variances is being heard Wednesday night. The lesser (“C”) variance and the site plan will be approved at a future meeting. The Planning Board will not attend as private citizens. Who knows what the HPC members will do.

    Why is this first part of the hearing process unusually important?

    In short, the sole variance requested for that Walnut St lot, zoned residential only,.for a parking lot use. Nothing else – means the the site plan has to be a strip mall design!!! The site plan review becomes extraneous. A hearty well done to Mr Plofker’s team.

    With the strip mall design settled, I’ll move on to the issue of the free-standing sign that is not in the application. Let’s see. How many town-wide properties with commercial uses & front yard setbacks have free-standing signs? A) All B) Vast majority C) Majority. Even Township Hall has one!

    So, I look forward to the finishing touches of our Walnut St strip mall with the upwardly illuminating, gooseneck-style lamps that will highlight the eventual free-standing sign on the corner. Since there is one there now, I can assure you it will be better – and therefore, meets any current or future master plan requirements.

  74. POSTED BY daveastor  |  November 05, 2017 @ 2:12 pm

    Thanks, Frank, for that information and analysis!

    I looked at the design again after reading your comment, and I must admit that Plofker’s project is somewhat more pleasing to the eye than the average strip mall. But the fact remains that the parking is still out front (which doesn’t blend well with the Grove/Walnut intersection) and that the Grove/Walnut area would become too crowded.

    So, the free-standing sign I’d like to see there is “STOP” (the project). Wishful thinking, I know…

  75. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  November 05, 2017 @ 6:32 pm

    That is why I give Mr Plofker & Teams much credit.

    Disregard the ‘drone-shot’ rendering. If the Taliban ever come to Walnut Street, we’ll see drone-shots often, but that’s it. So, we’re left with he street-level rendering. Someone, somewhere along the way might have warned you about the accuracy of renderings. Renderings, are by definition, the best possible outcome. What do you not see in the parking lot? Right! SUV’s, pickups, vans, etc. So, as often as not, the pedestrian-scale view (love that jargon) is of those vehicles and the 2nd floor.

    I have no doubt this project will be approved. Mr Plofker is a favored son. It’s a tried & tested building design, albeit stunningly similar, to me, of the 1982 Lackawanna Plaza Urban Renewal design. The Master Plan is a charade, but admittedly lots of fun for the ⅓ million cost.

    But, if anyone is under the mistaken belief that this administration/boards/commissions are more competent or developer friendly, they just don’t understand how this town works. Yes, better staging, lighting, and jump cuts, but same old.

  76. POSTED BY daveastor  |  November 05, 2017 @ 6:56 pm

    Drolly and convincingly said, Frank. Architectural renderings DO always look better than the resulting reality. Happened with Christopher Court, The Siena, Valley & Bloom…

    And Mr. Plofker is definitely a “favored son” of many Montclair officials, as is Pinnacle — despite those developers’ having some problematic past projects. (Lots of “P’s” in the sentence I just wrote.)

  77. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  November 05, 2017 @ 8:11 pm

    Plofker? We never worked with him.

    Pinnacle? We were partners on every one of his plans & projects. When it didn’t turn out right, we absolve ourselves of any & all responsibility and blame our partner or predecessors.

    Our record on the big ones:

    Gateway 1: Best supporting Council award to this Council for recommending 2 additional stories to the 6 stories originally approved Valley & Bloom, a hotel agreement where the hotel is a year behind schedule and we get to suck our thumb, and a really overbearing, but magical parking deck. PILOT $ way under what was talked up.

    Gateway 2: Ooops! Withdrawn.

    Eastern Gateway (not Plofker): Streetscape sucks, but PILOT $ is decent. Call it a wash.

    Seymour Arts District: Go big or go home. Went big, better than before. Wellmont has run out of excuses, but we actually benefit if it goes dark. The PILOT $ is a step backwards.

    Lackawanna: Really, who would have predicted Amazon might go into brick & mortar and buy a Whole Foods? We’re coming up on the 5-year anniversary of the proposed Municipal Complex stake-in-the-ground Christmas present. Site has the potential to be the gold standard for Farmers Market Complexes.

  78. POSTED BY daveastor  |  November 05, 2017 @ 9:11 pm

    Another memorable comment, Frank!

    Pinnacle and its co-developers do indeed seem to handle the behemoth projects in/near downtown, while Steve Plofker concentrates on somewhat smaller projects. And, yes, Montclair has sort of partnered with Pinnacle, especially on the future Seymour “arts district” that includes some town-owned land.

    But both Pinnacle and Plofker are treated too deferentially by the Township Council and Planning Board. Plofker receives all kinds of variances, and Pinnacle is allowed to build way too big.

  79. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  November 06, 2017 @ 9:40 am

    Eastern Gateway (not Plofker)…s/b not Pinnacle.

    Yes, but at least they are residents.

  80. POSTED BY daveastor  |  November 06, 2017 @ 11:36 am

    It’s true, Frank, that not EVERY project in/near downtown is from one of the two P’s. Just seems like that sometimes… 🙂 Thanks for the clarification!

  81. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  November 08, 2017 @ 10:43 pm

    Grove/Walnut is a very badly conceived project and whoa, with some serious attitude added.

    I think we need to get down on our knees and thank these developers from delivering us from the suburban bedroom community hell we have been living for 140 years.

  82. POSTED BY daveastor  |  November 08, 2017 @ 11:04 pm

    Ha! Drolly put, Frank!

    My only question: Do we need a variance to get down on our knees to thank those developers? 🙂

  83. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  November 09, 2017 @ 9:16 am

    Funny. I would think not if we did it on Thanksgiving.

  84. POSTED BY daveastor  |  November 09, 2017 @ 10:54 am

    LOL! Great quip, Frank! Two more weeks…

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