MontClairVoyant: As Graduation Nears, ‘Amphitheater’ Seems to Have More Letters Than Seats

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DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Montclair High’s 2018 commencement is just weeks away, and my two moms are not ready to see me graduate. Can you help?

Sincerely,
Project Acclimation

They’ll miss you when you’re at college, but I’m sure they’ll adapt. To ease the transition this summer, wear a Harry Potter invisibility cloak.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
You misunderstand. My moms are not ready to see me graduate because they each weigh 140 pounds and need to each weigh 10 pounds to squeeze into the high school’s lovely but way-too-small amphitheater. Any diet suggestions?

Sincerely,

Ate Is Enough

Only a London gambler could lose 130 pounds that quickly.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Then what’s the solution?

Sincerely,

I. Needanswers

Temporary bleachers on Park Street overlooking the amphitheater, or have graduating seniors do the traditional bridge walk outside Montclair High and then get their diplomas at Woodman Field — a short stroll east on Chestnut. If students stroll west, it’s a mere 25,000-mile walk to Woodman as they circumnavigate the globe.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Why do you have such strong feelings about the ceremony outgrowing the amphitheater?

Sincerely,
N. Passioned

One reason is personal: So many siblings and grandparents were in the amphitheater when my older daughter graduated that I, my wife, and various other moms and dads had to watch the 2007 ceremony in the high-school auditorium. It was closed-circuit TV, but it could’ve been BBC (Bitter Bipeds Congregation).

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Many of us are also bitter that the historic, architecturally significant Pleasant Avenue home of prominent African-American resident Aubrey Lewis (1935-2001) was recently razed. His family reportedly allowed that, but can you believe EIGHT homes are planned for the site?

Sincerely,

Octet Offensive

Awful! Think of the traffic, the lost open space, the additional students in our crowded schools, and the need for parents living in those new homes to camp out for years in the amphitheater saving seats to watch their kids graduate in 2030.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Even as another landmark to our town’s rich African-American history was destroyed (think also the Washington Street Y being torn down for Bullock School), the great African-American parade and festival is happening again in Montclair this weekend. Comment?

Sincerely,
Ring in the Gnu

Maybe there can be eight parades.

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.

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25 COMMENTS

  1. The unorthodox Montclair School of Historic Preservation (1965-2018). Call it life in circles.

    The period started when we made a big deal of moving the Israel Crane House (1965) to develop some land and save some local history. Lackawanna train station was mothballed in (1981) in advance of the Montclair Connection (1983-2002) that cut Grant & Sherman Sts like worms. Afterward, we designate the neighborhood as an historic district (2000-2005). We build culverts over Toney’s Brook. We build the new Bay St train station, but we move a section of Pine St back closer to it original location (which is outside the district) and claimed a preservation credit.

    We historically designate the old station (1972-2002) and then will demolish the train sheds (2018), moving what little we can for more preservation credits. Going forward, we want to add the Iron & Ice trail with a tip of the hat to its historic railroad DNA. Sorry, no credits for this one.

    The Washington Street Y is demolished (2005) for a new neighborhood school that originally had, until after the deal was closed, a swimming pool in the plan. The PTA has found some drawbacks with the playground, so parents want (2017) to build new sun-screen sheds as trees won’t work these days. Please no castoff, used LP train sheds if anyone is thinking of the ‘repurposing’ route. Anyway, we build a new Y (2007) on Glenridge Ave.

    Oh, and by the way, the new Y is on the original site of the Israel Crane House.

    So, over 50 or so years downtown, we still have the same number of train stations, the same number of Y’s, still have the Crane House, and also Toney’s Brook is there if you know where to look.

    The Montclair School.

  2. Wow, Frank — that was a vivid/information-packed/tour de force comment with an almost O. Henry-like near-ending (“…the new Y is on the original site of the Israel Crane House”). Great reading! And partly depressing reading. Montclair certainly has a convoluted history of preservation, semi-preservation, and (unfortunately) non-preservation.

  3. True! But given that New Jersey gets back a lot less federal tax money than it pays in, NJ towns should at least be able to borrow a federal slogan. 🙂

  4. I guess. I’m have trouble focusing as I just read the Mayor is offering a possibly solution to the parking issue at Edgemont….valet parking. We will be the only municipality in NJ that offer valet parking to go to the park. Pretty heady stuff.

    Yes, the valet will take the senior’s car and go out the driveway and park it right there on Valley Road or Parkway. It little dicey whether parking around there will be available on a typical weekday morning. So, let put in 2 ½ dozen parking spaces, regulation drive aisles and a couple of unloading zones.

    Sorry, the Aging in Montclair representatives lost my open-to-listen when they diminished the value of open park space and as a historic resource. The field house is a temporary solution for what are indoor activities, by their own admission. This senior center could be anywhere.

    If they are going to throw municipal priorities under their Access Link shuttle bus, those were the wrong two.

  5. The valet parking suggestion was bizarre. You drolly eviscerated that ridiculous idea in your comment, and there’s nothing I can add. 🙂

    When the Edgemont Park renovation was announced, I assumed the parking lot would get a badly needed repaving and remain roughly the same shape and size. Wrong assumption!

    I realize a senior center could be anywhere, but senior activities are held in the Edgemont field house for now. And even if another senior place opens elsewhere in town, the field house will still be a site for activities of some kind. So I feel keeping a traditional parking lot there would have made sense. No greenery would have been lost, because greenery was already gone.

  6. No, this project expanded the footprint. You should drop by.

    We used to call it the boat house. Regardless, it was an accessory building with small service parking. It has no hot water. We are getting all pretentious now and have to have a boat house that has a grand approach & departure of service vehicles because that is what the property owners nearby wanted. It’s the impression we paid a million dollars for.

    There is literally over a hundred on-street spaces ringing the park. Maybe we can offset the open space impact by installing PARKLETS! This is where the Council is right to push back hard. They JUST approved these on-street “open spaces” because of… a lack of open space! Now the senior coalition says screw the open space, we want parking because we can’t walk in from the street. I guess those seniors will never make a single loop around the improved, extra-wide park pathways.

    Push to ge them a real senior center…soon. We have the money. I’ve heard the Township “is hotter than a firecracker”. I’m on-board. Take the Council to task for the lack of a real senior center. But, these misplaced demands reflect incredibly lazy & short-sighted thinking.

  7. Thanks, Frank! Well said!

    I often walk or drive by Edgemont Park (I live just a few blocks away), and my daughter had her weekly rec-soccer practices there during the recently ended 2017-18 season. But the parking-lot area in front of the field house has been such a messy maze of construction, dirt, soft fencing, etc., that I had no idea about any footprint being expanded.

    As you say, there IS a lot of street parking edging the park. And many able-bodied seniors would have no problem using those spaces and getting to the field house, while some would struggle. I guess a big part of the complaints is that there was a parking lot there, and now there will no longer be one — i.e., something is being taken away. The replacement is a nicer entrance road, but, as has been reported, with fewer spaces and harder parking because of the road being curved. Car tires and Belgian blocks will meet more often than seniors do at the field house…

    It would be great to have a senior center elsewhere in town. But I’ll believe it when I see it — it has been discussed for years.

  8. Agree. Many, many years. And Belgian block has taken out innumerable tires.
    Th simple solution is to replace the block on the inner side of the circular drive with a narrow strip of pavers at grade level and reverse the direction of the 1-way drive. Same amount of parking as before. Done.

    Maybe for the next project the township will recognize the value of subjecting itself to a public plan review process that everyone else has to do through. This would prevent the totally unnecessary additional expense we will see for this one.

  9. Frank, I’m not sure I’m totally visualizing your solution, but if it results in the same amount of parking as before, it sounds good!

    And, yes, more public plan review is welcome. I remember when the Edgemont Park renovation was discussed and approved, but don’t recall a public hearing specifically about it. (I suppose residents could have given their opinion about the renovation during the public portion of any Township Council meeting at the time, but that’s not enough.)

  10. See this photo http://www.montclairlocal.news/wp/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/053118_EdgmontPkProgress8-1068×713.jpg

    Remove the curbing on left (inside arc) and replace with the narrow strip of pavers at grade level. Car can use the paver strip as part of the parking space. Further, since many spaces would be for ADA use, being at grade on all sides is important.

    There would still be the standard curbed sidewalk on the right, but it should ideally have a couple of ADA ramps. Of course, if we had our ADA Coordinator review the plan, this would have been addressed during design review.

    Not only was there not a review by either the DRC, the HPC, the PB, etc., the Township never put the $1MM plan on their web site. I would think there would have been a little fanfare – “look what goin’ to do” for that amount of $. That was the 1st red flag I saw back when the Council approved the funding. Now the Council gets to approve the Change Order.

  11. Back to parklets. They’re cute.
    They are inappropriate for a suburban locale, so the Council is once again reaffirming downtown is an urban setting.

    Applying the parklets concept is much like aftermarket car parts. It addresses deficiencies or added needs the original design didn’t address. If enough people want a feature then carmakers incorporate it into future models – and typically at a lower cost & better integrated into the specific model. As with urban design, we can incorporate the amenity feature many want or retrofit with parklets-type solution to compensate.

  12. Thanks, Frank! With the help of the photo you linked to, I can now visualize what you suggested for the Edgemont Park entranceway. Your excellent plan makes sense. A shame so little review was sought/done before the renovation work began. (It can still be a challenge for drivers of any age to park on a curved roadway, but having some places with no Belgian-block curbing to bump into can only help.)

    Parklets are indeed cute. With downtown Montclair getting so overdeveloped, a parklet or three can help — but it would be even better to have the pre-overdevelopment open space there and thus not need parklets as much.

    (As I typed this comment, Autocorrect kept turning “parklets” into “parakeets.” Maybe that’s revenge for parklets being situated where autos used to park…)

  13. I need to say I drove through the new, wide roadway and it is quite adequate for parallel parking except for the last, short S-section. So this complaint is really just based on seniors wanting more parking than was there before…to which the Council is rightfully saying no.

  14. Thanks, Frank!

    I walked to the new Edgemont Park entranceway this past weekend to take a look (partly because my column tomorrow is going to be mostly about it). I agree that it’s definitely wide enough for parallel parking, but I still think that even the slight curving of parts of the new entranceway could make for tricky parking.

    And the entranceway’s fewer number of spaces than the former parking lot had is an issue for some. I don’t think there should be more spaces than the now-gone lot had, but it would have been nice if there were roughly the same number of spaces.

    Ninety-nine percent of the time I’m in favor of open space, but, given that no open space would have been lost if the former parking lot were kept/repaved, and given that there are acres of greenery elsewhere in Edgemont Park, I don’t think the relatively good-looking new entranceway was worth giving up some parking for.

  15. OK, we’ll disagree on parking, what was there, what type, etc. I think with some basic creativity and a small Change Order ($40,000-$50,000), your goal could easily be accomplished.

    What is the bigger issue to me is the counter-clockwise circulation of the 1-way drive. It needs to be reversed! Just for plain safety reasons exiting to Valley Rd. The sight lines are awful for “regular” drivers. Knowing how challenged the senior drivers have been portrayed, it will likely be a new hotspot for both vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian accidents. Of course, the Township can choose to compound the parking problem by eliminating 4-5 on-street spaces out front. My bet they will go this route instead.

    Too bad our Township Engineer position is open. It would be nice to have at least one expert join the party.

  16. Thanks, Frank! I suppose some town officials would look at $40,000-$50,000 as pocket change. 🙂

    In terms of the new Edgemont entranceway being counter-clockwise, I wanted to make sure I’m clear on that. If a person is driving south on Valley, s/he enters the driveway, curves around, and exits a little more south on Valley. That would be counter-clockwise — sort of 3 p.m. (the entrance) to noon (the field house) to 9 a.m. (the exit). Wouldn’t that be better than clockwise? If a driver was going south on Valley and wanted to do the entranceway clockwise, s/he would turn right into the more-south entrance and then continue bearing right around the curve — kind of awkward?

    Yes, some areas of Montclair where cars are street-parked almost to the exits of parking lots or parked almost to street corners are rather dangerous with their bad sight lines. Examples include trying to turn left onto Fullerton from Union or Plymouth near the library, and trying to exit onto Glenridge Avenue from the parking lot of the 1 Greenwood commercial building with The Little Gym, etc.

  17. I don’t think it is awkward. If it is awkward to some, then they must have a hard time with Church St.

  18. I hear you, Frank. And I suppose clockwise might be better than counter-clockwise for cars driving north on Valley before turning into the new entranceway for the field house.

    Yes, several awkward places to drive in Montclair. The Church Street circle, Watchung Plaza…

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