MontClairVoyant: Old Schools, Old Movie Theater, and New Congresswoman

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DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Three of Montclair’s 11 public schools — now including Nishuane — have sadly had structural issues since September. Is age part of the problem for all but the newer Bullock, which is ugly outside but nice inside?

Sincerely,
Knew a New Gnu

Yes, so let’s re-create Bullock’s interior multiple times and insert it into the other 10 schools. 3D printers are great!

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
But how would those huge 3D-printed interiors fit into Montclair’s lovely older schools when those buildings all have different sizes and shapes?

Sincerely,
Renna Sance

Oops, never mind the Bullock.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
I bet you wanted to reference the “Never Mind the Bollocks” punk-rock album for years. Do you see me yawning?

Sincerely,
A. Gape

Keep your mouth open and I’ll toss in a tasty Montclair restaurant entree of your choice.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Oh…thanks! The 11th District’s congressional choice, Montclair’s Mikie Sherrill, took office on January 3. Your favorite early decision by that Democrat?

Sincerely,
Rep. Rhea Sentative

Announcing she’ll hold a public town hall — something her timid Republican predecessor hadn’t done for years. It will take place on January 22 in Hanover Township, about a half-hour drive from Montclair. Longer by tricycle.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Your favorite new member of Congress?

Sincerely,
S. Teemed

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who’s progressive, brainy, feisty, and fun — as well as many decades younger than most Montclair schools.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Speaking of office-holders, we’re now one calendar year away from Montclair’s 2020 Township Council election. Do we need new blood?

Sincerely,
The Slate Show

Let me check with my transfusion coach.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Seriously, the TC has had the same seven members since 2012, and they either support or rarely question the rampant overbuilding/gentrification of Montclair’s downtown. Perhaps some 2020 candidates who don’t worship developers?

Sincerely,
Too Much Posh Is Bosh

Let me check with my religious-cults coach.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Now we learn omnipresent developer Steven Plofker is among the people involved in trying to reopen the beautiful Bellevue Theatre for movies — with a new restaurant and liquor there, too. Does it worry you that he’s known for very pricey, “upscale” projects?

Sincerely,
Chris Topher-Court

Like thousands of others, I dearly want the 97-year-old Bellevue back as a film venue, but, yes, Plofker’s history does worry me. Will movie tickets, drinks, and food be very expensive — and will the “house salad” become the “McMansion salad”?

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Even though Nishuane, Glenfield, and Montclair High have had worrisome structural problems, our town’s older schools were more solidly constructed than Montclair’s new downtown buildings are. Heck, what will be The MC hotel’s condition a century from now?

Sincerely,
Future Schlock

If The MC doesn’t collapse long before 2119, it might tilt much more than the Leaning Tower of Pisa — enabling unsteady drinkers to exit the hotel’s rooftop bar at street level.

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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15 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you, Frank! I saw that story too late for this column, but plan to mention the deviation atop The MC hotel next week. I share your disgust.

    It’s depressing what Pinnacle and other developers have done (or tried to do) with some of their projects. I guess they smugly know that whatever has happened in the past (trying to build bigger and/or taller than approved plans, leaks/mold at The Siena, stuff falling off Valley & Bloom, etc.), they have little to worry about when town officials continue to approve their new projects and things remain buddy-buddy. Merit system? Ha!

  2. Exactly, Frank! Your comment nailed it perfectly. Too many Montclair officials are VERY forgiving (of the powerful and connected).

  3. Dave — Couple of things — regarding the schools falling down, it’s just not the schools. There are many critical repairs and upkeep that are needed. Instead of doing the repairs, the Town did away with the independent Capital Investment Advisory Committee that worked on logical maintenance of Town properties. If you kill the messenger, no one knows about what needs to be done. One might ask: What DOES the Town spend its money on?

    Re. Steve Plofker. He’s a convenient target but has done nothing to deserve the amount of criticism he gets. While on the Town council I would speak with him often. He explained taxes, PILOTS, and other areas. His buildings are nice, construction is good, and before putting a shovel in the ground he knows who is leasing/buying what he is building. He’s straightforward, his tenants like him. Same thing could be said about other developers, like Mike Pavel and Bob Silver Call me. I have some suggestions if your looking for developers that are not at all like these three guys.

    Cary Africk

  4. Thank you for the comment, Cary!

    Excellent point about not only school buildings having some issues. One of Montclair’s many charms is older public buildings, but those buildings — as well-constructed as most are — of course often need maintenance and repairs because of the ravages of time. I don’t have a strong memory of the Capital Investment Advisory Committee, but it does seem very unfortunate that it was shut down.

    As for Steven Plofker: His buildings do seem to have good construction — he certainly has a better reputation for that than, say, Pinnacle. And if tenants like him, that’s a very positive thing. But I have various other issues with Mr. Plofker’s approach, including his frequent attempts to cram too much into small or relatively small sites (the church site near the main library being one recent example); his emphasis on pricey/”upscale” projects when Montclair has a crying need for things like additional affordable housing; the astronomical daily room rates for The George hotel; his complete willingness to rent a Forest Street building of his to that proposed charter school that was so unpopular in Montclair and fortunately nixed by the state; his periodic pushing back when boards ask for some small concessions on his projects; and, going back almost 15 years, his demolition of The Marlboro Inn and subsequent cramming of 10 McMansions into that property.

    I will call you later today. 🙂

  5. Dave, I don’t understand your logic in attacking the room rates at The George. Plofker took a dilapidating building and spent a fortune making it beautiful. In doing so he employed many craftsman, now employs a staff, and I am sure pays quite a bit in property taxes. Wealthy visitors pay a hefty price to stay there to fund the beautification of Montclair, provide jobs and pay RE taxes. It is a good thing. Maybe if you look at the room rate as a tax on the wealthy to improve the landscape, put food on the common folks table, and educate our children you will cheer these projects on. Rich people and movers and shakers aren’t all bad. Working for them provided for and educated my children. Indirectly, they do the same for you.

  6. Thanks for the comment, flipside! Well argued, and you make some convincing points. If certain affluent people want to pay roughly $300-$500 a night to stay in a suburban (albeit beautiful) hotel, so be it. And, as you noted, some jobs are created, the tax base increases somewhat, etc.

    I guess I’d feel better if there were a modest-priced hotel alternative in Montclair for not-affluent visitors. I’m waiting to see what The MC’s daily rates will be; knowing Pinnacle’s history, those rates will probably be rather high, but I’m open to being pleasantly surprised.

  7. Hey Dave, Right now there are 2 not-affluent visitors staying at Hotel Flipside for the very reasonable rate of free! Feeding them too…any ideas on how to get rid of them??

  8. Hilarious comment, flipside! 🙂

    How to get rid of them? Perhaps a huge photo of a tropical island dangled outside the window…

  9. The George is fabulous and the prices are appropriate for what it offers… a stylish destination in Montclair in a historic building that it gives new life to… There is a very special boutique market for that. I wish that it had an events venue. I think it would do extremely well. I’m so glad that they preserved the building. I remember what it was like 20 – 30 – 40 years ago… totally shabby.

  10. Thank you for your perspective, Frank. I see what you’re saying — and you said it very well. I certainly like the historic-preservation aspect of The George. But I still think the room rates are just plain off the charts. Those rates would make more sense if the same hotel building were in a posh area of Manhattan or San Francisco rather than a suburb that’s not a super-major tourist destination. And, as I mentioned to flipside, there isn’t a modest-priced hotel alternative in town. Many people (myself included) are perfectly happy with something like a Days Inn, a Super 8, etc. Of course, less-expensive hotel options are available within a several-mile radius of Montclair, so there’s that…

  11. Frank, I forgot to add that nice B&Bs — for those (including myself) who sometimes want to avoid hotel chains — rarely charge what The George charges.

  12. There are lots of Airb&b listings in Montclair now and thats a great alternative for saving on hotel rates. Its also a great way to re purpose Montclair’s Houses and to give Montclair homeowners an added economy. What you get at the The George, or in a Montclair AirB&B house is a unique “Montclair” experience…a scene of place. A chain offers an “Anywhere USA” experience. A friend was in town and stayed in a chain hotel on rte 3 in the Meadowlands. It probably cost a couple hundred a night. It was a nightmare…like being stranded in the middle of nowhere in a traffic jam. I missed the exit for the ring road, while going to fetch him, and it took an extra 45mins in traffic to circle back.

  13. Thanks, Frank! I hadn’t known there were a lot of Airbnb listings in Montclair. Those places can indeed be great alternatives to hotels, and have the benefits you mentioned — uniqueness, earning potential for homeowners, no highway driving, etc.

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