MontClairVoyant: If This All-Positive Column Makes You Faint, Montclair Has Many Good Doctors


You received several comments last week about being too negative. Can you, just once, write an all-positive column about Montclair?

Bea Moore-Upbeat

Yes — and I prepared by watching “My Little Pony” videos!

If you have any brain cells left after that, can you tell us what you like most about our town?

We Wish You to ‘Dish’

Montclair’s population is more diverse than that of most suburbs. In contrast, driving into mostly white Cedar Grove last week had me humming “I’m dreaming of a white July 4th, with every July 4th card I write…”

What about Montclair’s public schools?

Ella Mentary

Love ’em! My older daughter got a great education at Edgemont, Renaissance, and Montclair High; my Buzz-bound younger daughter got a great education at Bradford (and spent happy weeks at Nishuane’s summer camp); and my cat got a great education at…well…he was home-schooled with “McWindowsill Readers.”

Better than 19th-century “McGuffey Readers.” What about Montclair’s many restaurants?

No Country for Old Menus

I’ve enjoyed dozens of those eateries since moving to Montclair in 1993, with Sushi Hana and Veggie Heaven the ones I most frequently visit. To reach the latter’s balcony seating, it’s “Stairway to Heaven” even if you’re thoroughly sick of classic rock.

Our town’s architecture?

The Builded Age

Love the old homes and old commercial edifices. They have flair, style, grace, pizzazz, panache, elegance, and nice nooks for thesauruses like the one I just consulted.

Montclair’s beautiful parks, trees, and anemones?

Natural Nuances

So that’s what PTA stands for!

And, astoundingly for a suburb of 38,000 or so people, our town has six train stations!

Choo-Choo Chewbacca

Seven if you count the depot in the Thomas the Tank Engine videos I watched after “My Little Pony.”

Plus there’s the Studio Playhouse, Montclair Art Museum, Montclair State University, and more!

League of Destinations

I’m so glad MSU offers the course “Write a Positive Column for Once in Your Pathetic Life After Writing Negative Columns Many Times in Your Pathetic Life 101.”

The above Q&A would have been a perfect way to end today’s piece, but what about the Planning Board’s July 9 decision to approve (with some revisions) the 256 Park Street building that will further crowd the Watchung Plaza area?

Bad Soon Rising

I’ll discuss that next week. This week, it’s all blue skies, daisies, sprites, and ice-cream cones — including sprites eating ice-cream cones while sitting amid daisies under blue skies. Plus rainbows…yes, rainbows.

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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  1. Dave,

    I know this is not your usual approach to the column, but same rules apply to positive commentary. It’s got to tell us something new or timely.
    So, note Montclair and Montclair State are out for the summer.
    There aren’t new plays/exhibits in the Summer.
    Our new trees are dying.
    NJT train service sucks equally at all 6 train stations – especially 4th of July week cxls and weekly standing.
    The proposed redesign of 430 Upper Mountain is really, really bad. I pity the neighbors.
    9 Upper Mountain has sprouted even more front yard parking and asphalt than last month… which complements a front facade of only garage doors. It is now two condos – each with their own driveway. Martin Schwartz momentarily questioned this, but quickly said ok. It is hard to understand why we even bother with front yard setbacks. And guess what, we are going to build several more of these.

    I missed your point about the whiteness of Cedar Grove.

  2. Ans speaking of our glorious school district, they decided to floodlight the Buzz Aldrin Middle School with high pressure sodium light fixtures which waste 50% of the electricity on lighting up the night sky. Quite a spectacular display of obliviousness.

    I’m sure if I go to MHS, Rand, etc I will see the same ignorant execution the district is known for when it comes to its approach to green. The only green the BOE and district management understand is the dead president kind.

  3. Thanks for commenting, Frank!

    I’ll definitely get more satirical again next week, but, until then, here’s a partial defense of this week’s column: Montclair State offers summer courses (though probably not imaginary ones 🙂 ). The Studio Playhouse doesn’t have new productions of its own during the summer, but it’s the site of Essex Youth Theater productions. People can still visit the Montclair Art Museum in the summer even if there are no new exhibits. There are indeed major issues with train service, but it’s still amazing to have six stations — a set-up that allows many residents to walk to their trains. Cedar Grove was 89.01% white as of the 2010 Census — not totally homogenous, but not that diverse, either. Plus I badly wanted to do a July 4th version of “White Christmas.” 🙂

    Bad news about trees and continued overdevelopment.

  4. “Plus I badly wanted to do a July 4th version of “White Christmas.” 🙂”

    Will Upper Montclair do? It covers 40% of the Township and is 84% white.

  5. Frank, I didn’t realize Buzz and perhaps some other schools were overlit. Seems wasteful, though I totally understand the need for a certain amount of lighting for security reasons. Also, I remember reading a few years ago about some of Montclair’s public schools not doing a great job with recycling; hopefully that has improved since then.

    While Montclair’s public schools aren’t perfect education-wise (achievement gap, etc.), I have overall been very impressed with them. And, for whatever it’s worth, many MHS graduates end up going to excellent colleges.

    I’m not used to being this positive… 🙂

  6. “Will Upper Montclair do? It covers 40% of the Township and is 84% white.” That’s an interesting point, Frank. I wish Upper Montclair were as diverse as “lower Montclair,” but 07043 and 07042 at least share the same magnet school system — meaning the student bodies of schools such as Buzz and Bradford are thankfully less than 84% white.

  7. The Mayor told the school district to capitalize the salaries of those directing our capital improvements. The BoE said, “capital idea!” These capitalized people are directing the illumination of the parapets because they want the townsfolk to be safe from the “Buzzed” Hunchback of Aldrin lurking on the parapets. There is also strong concern by the BoE that some constellations and galaxies are at risk of theft, hence their laudable efforts to illuminate the night sky and, hence, make them invisible to potential thieves.

    And yes, our much-praised school district is as bad as NYC when it come to recycling. Basically, we don’t recycle. We don’t do green. We talk about it. We’re very proud of the way we talk about it. I admit our talk is almost to the level of compelling if you shut down the cognitive side of your brain.

    Anyway, on a moonless night, I can go up on the roof and see the skyglow of Buzz Aldrin Middle School, Newark and New York City, in that order. I go to Maine if I want to see the Milky Way.

  8. FWIW, Bradford School has the biggest segregation issue currently. Northeast is 2nd and I can never remember the distant 3rd, but I’ll guess it is Watchung. Believe it or not, minority students don’t want to come up that far into Up Mtc. I remember this Council held a regular session up here in 2013 (they were elected just a year before) and never did that again.

  9. Frank, that was a very, VERY funny take on Buzz Aldrin Middle School’s illumination!

    I realize the more-northern-side-of-town elementary schools such as Bradford are less diverse than schools such as Nishuane and Bullock, but they are still fairly diverse. My younger daughter just spent six years at Bradford, so I saw that firsthand.

    One thing contributing to Montclair’s schools not being more equally diverse is that court ruling of whatever number of years ago not allowing race to be a factor in determining the mix of students populating each magnet school. So Montclair has had to do an imperfect end-around with a kind of geographic-zoning approach to try to achieve some level of diversity in all schools.

  10. Im glad you enjoyed my attempt at humor Dave.
    Yes, the schools are generally diverse and the zone approach has its limitations when combined with other wants of the parents. It is not ideal to put a 7 year old on a bus going crosstown. It gets out of wack every so often, we tighten it up for a while, then we start the cycle over. It resolves itself once they enter middle school.

    Lackawanna is part of the Town Center Historic District. It is a key site, hence a “landmark” within the district. Stand alone, locally designated historic sites are listed individually. Technically, by local ordinance, none of these individual sites are “landmarks”.

  11. And the proposed redesign of 430 Upper Mountain is not relally ugly…it is just an inappropriate and flawed design that conflicts with our local ordinance’s specifications on the appearance of R-1 structures. I don’t object to its expansion, just the execution and the zoning board should not grant the 19′ variance requested.

  12. Wow, frankgg! A VERY interesting/depressing omission. Glad you mentioned it.

    I wonder if Lackawanna Plaza is not on that landmark list because of an oversight or because some Montclair officials are so eager to have it redeveloped, even at the expense of marring some of its historical elements (train sheds, etc.).

  13. A highly successful attempt at humor, Frank!

    Yes, the wants of some parents does affect the demographics of Montclair’s public schools. Plus other factors such as having siblings attend the same schools. It’s complicated…

    I don’t think even the longest bus rides (say, a student living near MSU going to Nishuane) are outrageously long, but I guess it depends on the student, how friendly or unfriendly the other student passengers are, etc.

    And thanks for your comment on Lackawanna and local historic designations — a comment I didn’t see until after I replied to frankgg.

  14. I forgot about the sibling rule. Yes, they need a quadratic equation calculator.

    Applications and their exhibits, for both the Zoning Board and Planning Board, are posted here.
    For 430 UMA, click thru to the Zoning Board section.

    Note a few things: the right side roof dormer on existing house is centered from front to back and look at the architect handles the connection, or lack of. The addition starts forward of the existing main structure and its lower angle peak roof perpendicular to the main house. And then there are the 8 over 8 windows. The effect is like 2 houses…think conjoined fraternal twins.

  15. frankgg, the attempts of most developers and some Montclair officials to “undermine historic preservation” are wrong and extremely harmful to our town, even if there are some modest short-term gains in ratables. (I know I’m not saying anything you don’t already know!)

  16. “…they need a quadratic equation calculator” — ha, Frank! That and a dartboard with Montclair school names on it to randomly assign students based on where the thrown darts land. (Just kidding.)

  17. With a 1% waxing moon tonight after yesterday’s New Moon, and a clear sky after 9pm, we should be able to see the Milky Way clearly with just our eyes. Let your eyes adjust away from any light sources for about 30 minutes. If you can’t see the MW, then this will provide an excellent example of what light pollution has done to our night sky.

  18. Frank, it would be ironic if light from a school (Buzz Aldrin) named after an astronaut made it harder to see the Milky Way…

  19. Wow Frank, the proposal seems that no one from the architectural office went on site to see the existing conditions. There are no design connections between the existing and the new. The lateral dormer doesn’t connect to anything and if you open the existing window you just see a wall. That is not to code. The new window with the mullion details and sizes don’t match any existing windows at all and the new facade that supersedes the location of the existing facade just maims the existing house. A bad proposal. Makes you want to faint.

  20. The fainting theme continues… 🙂

    (Thanks, frankgg, for sharing your architectural expertise.)

  21. The Township surreptitiously increased the speed limit on Upper Mountain from 30 mph to 35 mph so drivers will have less time to appreciate these recent examples of Montclair’s new character. The very few pedestrians that walk the street become double-screwed.

    Upper Mountain is the new Grove Street. As a long time resident, it seems very equitable. Each gets its turn & time to get maimed.

  22. frankgg,

    The proposed design mixes the Queen Anne, Federalist, Colonial & Ranch styles. I think it would help immensely if they just lose the Queen Anne style of the original house, Hardi-Plank the entire thing, put a double, street-facing garage within the new addition and focus on making it a Colonial Ranch hybrid.

  23. Drats, timed out to edit my thought. Another option is to get the variance and then change the plan and tear down the existing. This would solve the design issue and just go with a Vernacular Style for a new structure.

  24. Frank, if Upper Mountain Avenue now has a speed limit of 35, I agree that’s too fast. And, yes, ironic after Grove Street’s speed limit was reduced. A very serious matter, though I appreciate your droll reference to speeding drivers not being able to see the “interesting” housing changes as well as if they were driving slower.

  25. That’s my point. The speed limit is 30 mph for a good part of it.

    The Council has sanctioned Department Community Services putting up 35 mph signs. They are taking a Trumpian approach and just saying it is a fake speed limit ordinance.

    See, what works for the Montclair Republicans also works for Montclair Democrats. They just have different choirs as their base.

  26. Frank, I think Democrats in general have better policies than Republicans in general, but Democrats certainly make plenty of not-good decisions.

  27. Not my point. Point was about justifying sacrificing individual values to realize these goals. The greater good. I get it. I always laugh my ass off when people 1.) take the high moral ground when doing this and 2.) say the country is coming to an end. That combination is indicative of a bs.

    Generational myopia.

  28. I hear you, Frank. Aiming for “the greater good” (aka “the greater bad” in many cases) rather than looking out for the interests of individuals is a problem with both major parties — though, again, I think the Republicans are a lot worse. Of course, the alleged “greater good” is often what people such as developers say they want (locally) and entities such as corporations say they want (nationally). With “the greater good” frequently a euphemism for “profits are more important than people.”

  29. Frank and Dave…did you two ever think about getting two milk crates and sitting on the corner to have your little bromance? I have to admit that your comments are so filled unintended irony that it does give credence to the claim that your blog is about humor and satire.

  30. Thanks for your thoughts, flipside.

    Frank comments a lot here, and, as you know, I reply to almost every comment from everyone. I think Frank’s comments are intelligent, interesting, and very knowledgeable about Montclair — but there have been more than a few times he and I disagree. And Frank and I have never met. All that doesn’t seem like a “little bromance” to me, but what do I know — I’ve only seen one Judd Apatow movie… 🙂

  31. Slow day flipside? Moderating the Montclairvoyant thread? And milk crates? I don’t have any, but I can break out my telex machine.

  32. Frank..Moderating? Nah…not really….just opining how boring you two are. The milk crates was a reference to “Do the Right Thing” and a throw back to my teen years when I pumped gas in a “hood”. The sight of you and Dave juxtaposed against Frankie Faison and Sweet Dick Willie tickled my funny bone.

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