Letter to The Editor: Lack of Supermarket at Lackawanna Plaza Taking Toll On Residents

My name is Kychelle Sterling and I have been a resident of Montclair for about 20 years. I really feel that we need a supermarket in Lackawanna Plaza. I attended a meeting last month at 205 Claremont Ave. regarding this but unfortunately was unable to speak due to meeting going very late at night. I had to leave because I had to get up early for work.

I really love living in Montclair. It is such a beautiful area. One of the reasons I moved to Montclair was because of the convenience of the area. When I first moved here, we had a mall with a supermarket. We also had a store where you could pay your bills and so many other various stores.

All this time I have been hoping for a supermarket. I don’t have a car or access to a car. It’s very hard to go to an affordable supermarket and to carry groceries on the bus and walk with them. It worries me because since we have not had a supermarket I know for sure I have not been eating as healthy as I should be. I find myself getting takeout in various places because I’m so tired when I come from work. Also, I know I have been spending more money.

My heart also goes out to the elderly people I have spoken to in the area. They have said so many times they don’t have dinner because there is no supermarket that is close enough for them to get to; some also have mobility issues. My heart goes out to them.

I’ve discussed this issue with others in Montclair, but I always wanted my voice to be heard. I really hope we will get a supermarket. I will be very grateful and thankful if this happens along with many others. Thank you for allowing me to voice my opinion.

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  1. Yes, one would think finding a supermarket would not be such a problem for such experienced developers. Especially since they’ve have 8 acres to design around.

    Of course, they have owned the site for 5 years. Not quite the same time span as the surviving historic train station being on site for the 100 years before them. Especially since the Planning Board advised the Council in 2017 the historic site needed to be preserved. The Council ignored them because they were going to be the government body deciding it. Then the developer turned everything on it’s head by cutting the Council out and applying to the autonomous Planning Board. But, wait! The PB had already come out in the Summer of ’17 against demolition.

    If you still want to be heard, there is a Council meeting tomorrow night. The public comment period happens just after 7pm. You can ask them how it is that a solution for a supermarket, preservation and developer profit can not be obtained from an 8-acre site in downtown Montclair…a town I understand to be hotter than a firecracker.

  2. I agree with your points, Ms. Sterling, but the need for a supermarket is being handled improperly by the township. The Lackawanna Developer is not required formerly to provide a supermarket. After all of this time and debate, there is no contractural agreement for a supermarket, requirement or grantee that there will be one. The proposal asks for square footage that is greater than the size of a market that even the grocery store experts say would be good for that location. The store space could possibly be leased to any business…. a Best Buy, Toys are Us of even the worlds largest Nail Salon. Dr. Baskervilles Resolution only hastens for the demolition of the landmark but gives no requirement or guarantee that a supermarket will be destined to go there… the resolution also has language that rejects alternative supermarkets. Alternative supermarkets are successfully done right now in East Orange and in Newark. The YMCAs are also involved (Montclair’s YMCA could be involved) The way things are now, even if the landmark is demolished and a supermarket tenant signs a contract right now, it will take YEARS before a supermarket could open at the Lackawanna Location (I estimate at least 3 or 4) The Montclair Chapter of the NAACP has gotten involved to hasten the process but ask no commitment for an actual supermarket. Mr Scott asked the developer at the last planning board meeting if there would be a priority for a supermarket and there was no affirmative answer. I currently collaborate with the organizations that provide pop up markets in East Orange and Newark and am TOTALLY willing to volunteer for Montclair but no one accepts or even informs themselves.

  3. This 4th ward community victim story really has to end. The distance from Washington Street and Elm to Lackawanna Plaza is 1.2 miles. The distance from there to Foodtown Bloomfield is 1.7 miles. Discount ALDI in Bloomfield is 2.1 miles away. A bit more. Yes, of course, it would be better to have an inexpensive chain like ALDI right in the Lackawanna Plaza, but it’s now just a half to a mile difference in the meantime from mid ward. Where’s the fire – even if you always take a cab?

    At the same time, for the elderly and those without cars there’s also Fresh Direct to call. Reasonable supermarket prices. Less than Pathmark’s price gauging in some ways. There is also Shoprite Bloomfield — 4 miles from that spot. They deliver too instead of taking a cab, or driving. Uptown there is ACME – 3.5 miles away. So sure, a Lackawanna supermarket is needed. However, there is no real food “dessert.” Delivery is an option. And that’s where the market is heading anyway.

    It’s a manufactured crisis. The developer could have reached out for a temporary pop up supermarket company from the moment Pathmark left. They knew this process would not be quick. Instead, clearly, Pinnacle felt not having any market there would push everyone to do exactly what they wanted. To knock down the historic train station so they could just build their plans. They played on community fears that no supermarket would ever come. And now, it’s even turned into a racial issue rather than just market response or economics. The NAACP is involved with a petition. The Council tried to pressure the Planning board to fold. Do what the developer wanted. Really? With Foodtown Bloomfield just a half a mile further away?

    Someone is pulling strings here and some are blindly and sadly dancing.

  4. Thanks for your comment, Right From Wrong…. what you’re saying is so 100% true.
    This “manufactured crisis” is demeaning to the 4th Ward community.

  5. I think if they bulldosed the entire trainshed and put up a circus tent every major supermarket would be BEGGING to get in. Have heard that was one of Path Mark’s highest performing locations back in the day.

  6. I have just posted an alternate trainshed-friendly plan for the apartment building that I’m trying to get out – before it’s too late – it’s linked to a page about the process so far, NJ Transit’s actions, etc.


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