MontClairVoyant: Gentrification in Our Town, and Stairways to (Someday) Go Up and Down

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DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Last week, you lamented the current and coming gentrification of downtown Montclair. Isn’t gentrification also a continuing threat to the diverse, historic, architecturally interesting, relatively affordable Pine Street area?

Sincerely,
Hipster Tipster

Unfortunately, yes. I’m hoping that area has a better future than another Pine (actor Chris) did in “Wonder Woman.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Heck, as Montclair’s few not-THAT-costly neighborhoods get pricier, where are modest-income people supposed to live? In street lights? Fire hydrants? Glove compartments? Post office boxes? BigBelly trash compactors?

Sincerely,
Gonna Need Small Plates

Hey — don’t give developers any ideas. Five ideas, to be exact.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
In a related matter, there’s anecdotal evidence that some Montclair landlords are raising rents a LOT — and doing other things to try to push out some lower-income residents and replace them with affluent, higher-paying tenants. Comment?

Sincerely,
Let Them Lease Cake

If our town’s leaders want to maintain Montclair’s economic and racial diversity, as well as its compassionate reputation, greedy landlords must be policed and rent control considered. To misquote Led Zeppelin, when steep rent hikes are sought, that has to be “when the levy brakes.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Speaking of brakes, there’s talk of bringing back a version of the rule that used to prevent developers from razing older-than-75-year homes without a thorough, objective review. Do you favor that?

Sincerely,
D. Molish and D. Stroy

Yes! It wouldn’t stop all teardowns but might force moguls to put more of their projects on empty land — such as the moon. The next time Buzz Aldrin students peer into telescopes on Star-Gazing Night, developers could wave from the lunar surface.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Quite an October 16 event at Buzz! Meanwhile, can you believe our school district might spend $1 million or so rebuilding four Montclair High stairways, doing asbestos removal, renting classroom trailers, etc.?

Sincerely,
Lots of Zeros, No Heroes

To think the district might have saved most of that cost if it had inspected those stairways after a 2016 repair of the one that partly collapsed last month. You know, preventive maintenance — like a 5,000-mile oil change for your tricycle.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Plus the huge daily inconveniences for Montclair High students, teachers, and others — followed by half days in George Inness Annex after the main building is closed May 20. Did some local education leaders drop the ball between 2016 and 2018?

Sincerely,
Institutional Amnesia

Ya think? They’d be well-qualified for a job in Times Square this New Year’s Eve.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
And what’s with yet another round of principal musical chairs?

Sincerely,
School Swap Bingo

Accompanied by students and teachers singing “I’ve Grown Unaccustomed to Your Face.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
“My Fair Lady”?

Sincerely,
Wrecks Harrison

No one’s getting a tan when October temperatures are this chilly.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
An October 13 event celebrated the naming of the athletic fields and facilities off Essex Avenue “The Aubrey Lewis Sports Complex.” A VERY deserved honor for the renowned athlete, businessman, and longtime Montclair resident?

Sincerely,
Fields of Dreams

Yes! The late Lewis was perhaps best known for his stellar play in football — a sport that reminds me that any marketing guy who writes a line lauding our town’s gentrification would be an “offensive line man.”

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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12 COMMENTS

  1. Its happened before in history and I give it about 5 to 10 years before it happens here …. just like the First Ward in Newark, the Fourth Ward Community in Montclair is going to totally vanish. There won’t even be any of the communities’s landmarks left either. It’s sad.

  2. Thank you for the comment, frankgg. I’m afraid of that, too. 🙁 Maybe not vanish entirely, but become very different — not as affordable, less-diverse population, more cookie-cutter, some wonderful architecture gone, etc. It’s heartbreaking to see that happen to great, historic neighborhoods. Some change is okay — but not this much, mostly happening to make developers even wealthier.

  3. No.

    You’re totally missing the point here. We, the residents of all wards, of all colors, of all beliefs – the vast majority – are doing this to financially line our pockets as much, if not more so than the developers. It is really that simple.

    We are doing this for the here and now. There is no long view. Ask anyone. There is no vision. All we know is that growth is good.

  4. Thank you for the comment, Frank. I acknowledge that some Montclair residents (and future Montclair residents) want this gentrification/overdevelopment, but I think they’re a much smaller group than the Montclair residents who don’t want it. It seems to me that profit-focused developers are driving this, with a number of township officials going along because they don’t want to be sued by the developers who own (most of) the land being built on and because they (the township officials) want more ratables — even though much of those new taxes would be eaten up by the costs of educating more students, etc. I don’t see how any of this is a financial windfall for residents, except perhaps for those who might sell their homes for a higher price before they leave Montclair. And how many residents want a very congested downtown?

    I totally agree that the long view is not being respected. If things continue like this, the character of an economically and racially diverse Montclair is going to change a lot — and not for the better.

  5. Dave, I not a huge fan of some of the development but it is going to happen. My hope is that the quality is decent. As far as diversity …well, even in Montclair the free market rules (for the most part). I am sure the racial and economic makeup of Montclair has fluctuated over time. That’s how things work. You seem to be hung up on your own personal beliefs and believe that everything else is bad or offensive. I am sure when they started developing above 14th St in Manhattan there were plenty of complainers…perhaps some of your ancestors?

  6. Thank you for the comment, flipside.

    I share your hope that the quality is decent, but so far Pinnacle’s track record has been mixed (leaks and mold in the early days of The Siena and, more recently, things falling off the side of Valley & Bloom).

    The free market? When developers get lots of variances and/or Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) deals from local government entities, “the free market” is nudged in a certain direction. (I realize you might have been alluding to that when you wrote “for the most part”).

    I agree that Montclair’s diversity has fluctuated over time, but the current trend seems more long-lasting or even permanent when one looks at the Census differences from 2000 to 2010 and what will surely prove to be a significantly less diverse town in the 2020 Census.

    At the risk of me being annoyingly obvious ( 🙂 ), my column is an opinion column and thus contains my personal beliefs and observations. I realize they’re not shared by everyone. 🙂

    Manhattan above 14th Street was already pretty darn developed when my ancestors came to the U.S. from Eastern Europe in the early 1900s. An urban place like Manhattan is practically meant to be overbuilt and crowded; a suburb like Montclair should be different.

  7. Manhattan wasn’t always urban and Montclair wasn’t always suburban. 2000 to 2010 is a small sample size and maybe the trend is towards what is more in keeping with overall demographics of the country or state. What was the make up of Montclair in the 40’s and 50’s?

  8. True, flipside. Manhattan and Montclair were once both rural, as was everywhere else. But Manhattan was kind of fated to be a big city — 24 square miles, surrounded by water when so much commerce was done via ships, bedrock conducive to tall buildings, etc.

    Yes, 2000 to 2010 is a relatively small sample size, but 2000 to 2020 is not so small, and it’s obvious a decrease in Montclair’s diversity is going to show up in the next Census.

    Yes, again — if Montclair continues to get whiter, it will be closer to the white-black demographics of the state and country. Which would be a shame, because one of Montclair’s appeals is having more diversity than the average suburb.

    I don’t know the demographics of Montclair in the 1940s and ’50s.

    I appreciate the follow-up comment.

  9. “You seem to be hung up on your own personal beliefs and believe that everything else is bad or offensive.”

    —Flipside’s assault on the Irony Meter continues unabated…

  10. Thank you for the comment, jcunningham. Yes, we all have our personal beliefs, and there’s nothing wrong with that.* I guess a number of people have a problem with personal beliefs when they don’t agree with those beliefs. 🙂

    *Nothing wrong with that most of the time. But the personal beliefs of Trump, for instance, encouraged those recent bomb threats against prominent Democrats (because of the White House occupant’s comments on Twitter and at rallies) and have done nothing to stop gun massacres such as the Pittsburgh one (because of Trump’s close ties to the NRA and his refusal to support any major gun-control legislation).

  11. Jcunn…I have my own personal beliefs but don’t think those who disagree with those beliefs are bad or offensive…(they are just wrong!..joking) I am so glad you are alive and well and keeping tabs on me. How are things in the peanut gallery??
    Dave, I pretty much disagree with all your opinions but I like you anyway. Though I find your lily white hair a bit offensive. How about a little Just for Men to add some diversity to your head and beard. Maybe some rainbow dye…

  12. LOL, flipside! My hair is definitely whitish, but one of my daughters has black hair, so my household is follicle-ly diverse. 🙂

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