MontClairVoyant: In the Month of December, Two Positive Days to Remember

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DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
You’re always criticizing stuff. Can we start today’s column with something positive (a December 12 event) and end it with something else positive (a Lackawanna Plaza plan NOT suggested by LP’s developers)?

Sincerely,
Up, Upbeat, and Away

Sure! December 12 is the birthday of Frank Sinatra — who, if alive today, would’ve sung “New York, New York” about Montclair’s increasingly overbuilt and getting-pricier downtown. “I don’t want to wake up in a jammed suburb that isn’t cheap…”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
That’s not positive. I’m talking about the December 12 fundraiser at Ruthie’s to help tenants of the fire-stricken multifamily house at Valley and Walnut. Wasn’t that a great gathering?

Sincerely,
The Labors of Neighbors

It was, and Melissa DiMarco and others did a superb job organizing it. Wonderful reaffirmation that Montclair is a CC (Caring Community) when other CCs are troubling: Chris Christie, Christopher Court, the cascading cost of Calico Critters…

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Speaking of cost, how many artists will be able to afford space in Montclair’s coming “arts district”? How crammed will downtown be with that project’s many new apartments and other construction? Can elephants avoid taking off their shoes at airport security?

Sincerely,
The Query Orchard

I can only answer the third question with total certainty. Yes, elephants can avoid taking off their shoes at airport security — if they sign up for TSA PreCheck.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
At the “arts district” groundbreaking on December 10, local officials and developers were sickeningly buddy-buddy in photo ops. Comment?

Sincerely,
Chums the Word

To retool a Dorothy Parker quip, many Montcwair wesidents fwowed up.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
According to a Baristanet story, Mayor Jackson said at the groundbreaking that the “arts district” would put Montclair on the map. Isn’t a great town like ours already on the map?

Sincerely,
Renaissance at Rand McNally

I checked a map and saw a big white space surrounded by Verona, Little Falls, Clifton, Bloomfield, Orange, etc. Might have snowed that day…

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Or gentrification is making Montclair whiter. The same Baristanet story reported Deputy Mayor Sean Spiller saying the “arts district” was made possible by officials representing the interests of the people they serve. But aren’t many residents, in and out of that neighborhood, against the project?

Sincerely,
Seething on Seymour

Maybe the people being served are developers. Heck, those rich white men are people, too — with hopes and schemes…um…dreams, and the need to put food on the table. Beats eating off the floor.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Back to positive! At the December 17 Planning Board meeting, Montclair residents/Historic Preservation Commission members David Greenbaum and John Reimnitz (the latter an architect) offered a Lackawanna Plaza plan. Impressed?

Sincerely,
Al Ternative

Yes! Saves all historic elements of the former train station, offers a lovely space for a needed market, makes the parking area less in-your-face, is more pedestrian-friendly, etc. Much better than the developers’ plan, which is so subpar it was offered the post of Trump’s chief of staff.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Why such a difference in plans?

Sincerely,
Susanna Lackawanna

The HPCers’ first priority is helping Montclair, while the developers’ first priority is maximizing profit. Simple as that. Heck, when I think of “green buildings,” the word “green” has two meanings.

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. “According to a Baristanet story, Mayor Jackson said at the groundbreaking that the “arts district” would put Montclair on the map. Isn’t a great town like ours already on the map?”

    This captures what Montclair is about now. We’re are “wannabe” town instead of being a town that does the right things…just because it is right. We do the right thing now if we get a return on our investment. We’re wrapped up in the Montclair brand, our ego & the pursuit of status. We’re becoming shallow. Merry Christmas!

  2. Thank you, Frank! Well said! Some local developers and officials are indeed acting like Montclair is a “wannabe” town rather than an already-“be” town. Montclair is hardly perfect, but it’s got things like diversity and great residential and commercial architecture — things at least partly threatened by the pricey, too-big, mediocre-looking, variance-needing projects being built. All this new downtown stuff is designed to attract an affluent, status-conscious, mostly white demographic that would change Montclair significantly — and not for the better.

  3. Jackson and Spiller proclaiming the “arts district” for another large development with little parking and one room with some art in it is funny as hell. You have to give them an A for effort in tricking a gullible public.

  4. Thank you for the comment, spookyt!

    Yes, the cozying-up to developers on yet another flawed project — an “arts district” whose new parts will not be that much about art — IS kind of funny in its obviousness and outrageousness. The “arts district” is mostly about things like a ton of new apartments and more commercial space — all of which will join Valley & Bloom, the rising hotel, the Lackawanna Plaza redo, etc., in overcrowding downtown, increasing traffic, putting additional strain on Montclair’s infrastructure, making our schools more filled, etc.

    Some of the public might indeed be gullible about all this, as you mentioned, but what’s more infuriating to me is that MANY residents do see exactly what’s going on with overdevelopment. Yet they are being mostly ignored as many Montclair officials allow big developers to build almost everything they want.

  5. All of these gaffes being said about the new Montclair Arts District are only going to scare the real art world and its operators away. The art world is very touchy and fragile… you do and say the wrong thing, and you’re emarginated for good. I’m sure the intentions of Mayor Jackson and Councilman Spiller are good but that’s just not the way it works. Montclair’s Design Week and its founder Petia Morozov will be putting Montclair on the map for the real art world. She has the right vision and the right point of view about Montclair, both internally and externally. The Montclair Arts district needs Petia to save the day!

  6. Thank you, Frank. Interesting points!

    I agree that the intentions of those two Montclair officials are probably good. But as you might be partly alluding to, cozying-up to developers does not exactly give officials “cred” with the real art world (as opposed to a developer/corporate vision of an art world). It also doesn’t help that many people in the neighborhood, and in Montclair as a whole, are not happy with this planned “arts district.”

    Per your suggestion, the “arts district” could certainly use arts experts to help matters, but I imagine some experts might be reluctant to get involved in a district formed in such a non-grassroots way — a district that also might be too expensive for most artists to live and work.

  7. I agree, Frank!

    Maybe it only works for certain upscale sectors of the art world — like NYC’s no-longer-new-but-still-shiny Lincoln Center, which makes the mayor’s comparison of Montclair’s “arts district” to LC telling.

  8. Not they can’t compare with Lincoln Center, designed by EXCELLENT architects…Philip Johnson…Liz Diller & Rick Scofidio….

  9. Frank, I have mixed feelings about Lincoln Center — created after an historic Manhattan neighborhood (populated by many people of color) was torn down via eminent domain by the likes of Robert Moses. Early gentrification. But Lincoln Center indeed has an appealing architectural look — something Pinnacle has never even remotely approached with its Montclair projects.

  10. Thank you for the fascinating/sad link, Frank. I had a vague memory of reading about that. Central Park of course turned out to be a jewel, but one wonders if it could have been built in a slightly different Manhattan locale. Or, failing that, the residents should have been relocated better — with more compensation. A neighborhood of rich white people would never have been destroyed like that to make way for a park.

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