MontClairVoyant: Change Is in the Air for the Climate and Montclair

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DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Hundreds of Montclair High students joined a worldwide school walkout on March 15 to demand more action on climate change. Impressed?

Sincerely,
Dale Lee Planet

Yes. And who better than teens to draw attention to such an existential threat? They’ll be alive many years from now — when, if something isn’t done, global warming will turn every Montclair bank into Boiling Springs.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Three days later, on March 18, the Board of Education approved a tentative 2019-20 budget that includes layoffs of some ultra-important paraprofessionals. Comment?

Sincerely,
Bea O’Eek

Thanks, Gov. Murphy, for the meager state-aid increase. If you’re in Montclair’s Fourth of July Parade again, disguise yourself as an antique car.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
But Montclair Education Association representatives said at the meeting that our school district has the funds to keep the threatened paras. Does it?

Sincerely,
MEA Had Something to Say

I’m no money expert. For instance, the dollar bills in my wallet say “IN GOD WE TRUST,” but I can’t figure out how “GOD” and “GOP” can share two letters.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
The BOE also rejected FOUR bids to rebuild stairways and remove asbestos at Montclair High. Will that work be finished before the next school year starts this September?

Sincerely,
Last-Minute Minuet

If not, students will have to travel between floors via the board game “Chutes and Ladders.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Given that a staircase partly collapsed way back in September, why wasn’t the bidding process completed months ago?

Sincerely,
The Snail Prerogative

Well, there was time off for Thanksgiving, the December holidays, and Montclair’s BOE Operates Too Slowly Day.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Also being worked on is the too-big/too-upscale “arts district” many residents don’t want, and driving is now a challenge near that downtown construction site. Is the solution one-inch-wide cars?

Sincerely,
Hole Broods

Only if the cars’ CD player slots are vertical.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
The area near “The MC” has also been a driving nightmare — for a long time. When will that hotel finally be finished?

Sincerely,
Hostile to Hostelry

Constructing a chocolate on each guest pillow is a painstaking process: giving the plaster a cocoa consistency, painting the candies just the right shade of brown…

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
In blue-hued news, both mailboxes in front of Watchung Plaza’s post office are gone. I don’t pay all my bills online, so where can I send off check-filled envelopes when that post office is closed?

Sincerely,
The Mail Prerogative

Put them in a pair of cleats being sold at the soccer store across the street. I can’t guarantee the checks will end up where they should, but they might make it to Brookdale Park’s stadium for a Montclair rec-league game.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
The fate of the two mailboxes?

Sincerely,
Letters from the Overground

They now play Canasta with other seniors in the Edgemont Park field house.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Will one-inch-wide luxury apartments rise where the mailboxes once stood?

Sincerely,
Breakfast of Stampions

What’s with the thin buildings and thin cars in today’s column? Is it “Mick Fleetwood Tribute Week”?

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Fleetwood Mac’s drummer WAS rather slim years ago. Meanwhile, Montclair extended its tear-down moratorium 30 more days after two vintage mansions were razed to make way for that 60,000-square-foot monster home. Thoughts?

Sincerely,
Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow

I still feel that the moratorium “closed the barn door after the horse left” — after which the escaped filly listened to “Exile on Mane Street.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Enough irksome classic-rock references. Now that it’s spring, think pleasant spring thoughts: leaves, flowers, green lawns, higher temps…

Sincerely,
Tulips-Lautrec

Higher temps remind me of climate change, and of the only Earth we can leave Montclair High students. Actually, one-and-a-third Earths if you include the band Earth, Wind & Fire…

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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35 COMMENTS

  1. Historic Context/Theme:
    Beginning in the 20th century, wealthy residents were building mansions in the south end of town. These residences were constructed on large properties, portions of which have been subsequently subdivided and sold off for more recent residential developments.

    The majority of properties appear to have been individually developed by a single owner/developer, resulting in the wide variety of architectural styles, features, and building materials. Though there is a range in style, features, and materials, the majority of the properties within the Estate Area are of the same type–large, single-family residences for the upper class.
    These large, single-family residences convey a unique architectural identity, distinct from surrounding areas, and establish its historic context as a neighborhood for the upper class.

    – 2016 Montclair Master Plan HP Element

    The 2 existing homes have now been demolished. Therefore, the only historic preservation question is whether this house fits within the historic context of the neighborhood’s period of significance. It clearly does.

    Just because it will be the largest lot and largest house doesn’t disqualify it. Rather, it does the opposite. I can argue this design helps to partially restore the neighborhood’s integrity that was lost to subdivision of the former estates. Of course, the argument also highlights a long-standing HP issue in general….a cultural bias.

    Another inherent deficiency of Montclair historic preservation policy is we don’t value the site’s relationship to the building itself. Absent a structure, the site is a non-factor in determining historic integrity. We just want to keep the prettiest buildings, e.g. the Lackawanna Plaza terminal. We believe land is too valuable to waste on preservation.

    Now, if we want to put a cap on home sizes in the future, that’s fine by me. The Zoning Board can reject the variances requested, but can not make the mistake of using a historic preservation justification. This would be indefensible.

  2. Hey Dave, I walked out of school in the 70’s to protest Global Cooling. We didn’t just walk out for a day off. We did our part. A bunch of us jumped into Wally V’s Olds 442 and drove around town…and let the cops chase us around. Such fun!!
    Basically, walking out means nothing unless you actually do something. Look at the money we will save on buses, heat, A/C etc….heck, they might be able to lower RE taxes. Thanks kids….great idea.

  3. Thank you, Frank, for the information and interesting comment.

    As you alluded to, the planned home at/near Lloyd and Undercliff indeed sort of fits the original “vibe” of the Estate Section — one large mansion per one large piece of property. But the two demolished homes did the same thing on a somewhat smaller scale. Plus the planned home is ridiculously oversized (60,000 square feet!) — somewhere in the hugeness range of the White House and Hearst Castle. Finally, at least to me, the planned home is mediocre-looking at best and ugly at worst, while the razed homes were more aesthetically pleasing. In sum, the planned mega-mansion is not a welcome addition to the Estate Section and Montclair in general.

  4. Thank you, flipside. I had to chuckle at the humor in your comment even as I mostly disagreed with what you said.

    I don’t think the Montclair High student walkout was frivolous. Many young people are genuinely concerned about their future, and the planet’s future. It’s scary the way temperatures are getting hotter, hurricanes are getting more intense, wildfires are getting more devastating, etc.

    Protesting IS one way of doing something. Plus some of the students take environmental measures in their own lives — whether it involves recycling, walking or biking to school instead of driving, having a vegetarian or near-vegetarian diet, etc. Of course few people, whether teens or adults, are without environmental contradictions. Most of us have smartphones, drive, take plane trips, etc. But it’s better to try to reduce our carbon footprint, say, 5% than not at all.

    And it’s good to push corporations and government to be more “green” — whether that involves cars that get better gas mileage, investing in clean(er) energy, and so on.

  5. I personally agree with you. But, I will expect the same township majority that threw historic preservation under the bus with Lackawanna Plaza will now try to back that bus up and use preservation as an inappropriate pretext. The Township has voted for big. Big hotels, big housing and big parking decks. Our {insert choice of word} to think we could limit the market forces to the commercial areas and retain the residential scale of the town was mistaken. No worries. This project is probably the exception to our future.

  6. Frank, those are excellent observations by you: Montclair leaders/officials indeed worry about preservation inconsistently. And by going so big with downtown commercial/multi-unit residential projects, those leaders/officials are at least indirectly sending a message that it’s also okay for the rich to go big on single-family homes.

  7. Dave…disagree? Wally did have a 442. It was green. I am a big believer in conservation and being green. Probably because I am also cheap. My issue with being “green” is at this stage of the technology the movement is a bit of farce. There are huge sums of money to made with a change of government policy. When these kids vote that will likely happen. I spent some time in Tibet and witnessed the destruction and wasted energy that goes into mining the material for cell phones and Prius batteries. Not just to Mother Earth but to the culture. “Green” isn’t always so green. What is the plan when the solar panels head to the trash heap? I certainly wouldn’t buy a property with solar panels without testing for toxic metals. Anyway….let’s not forget about sunspots and Volcanic activity to add to our anxiety.

  8. Ha, flipside! I should have said I disagreed with some of your comment rather than most of it. If it was an Oldsmobile 442, it was an Oldsmobile 442! Also, Dave Kingman had 442 lifetime home runs. A coincidence? I think not. 🙂

    Yes, the creation of Prius batteries and the eventual trash-heaping of solar panels are not great environmentally, but if you consider the fossil fuel they save over their lifetimes, it’s still a net win for Planet Earth. And corporations from the developed world are unfortunately going to exploit third-world countries whether the product is “green” or not.

  9. Ok, we don’t use the term Third World anymore. I think Developing World is a present day accepted alternative. Yes, it implies Developing World countries will become developed countries and they will exploit the next developing world…which of course are the oceans followed by the Moon, etc.

    Of course, The developed world doesn’t discriminate. It exploits itself, too! So, yes, it really doesn’t matter if we do it in Tibet or in NJ. I will say it does help to go to the other side of the world and see it and then come back to a developed country and realize it has been in front of you all this time.

    Hopefully, the MHS students will figure this out sooner rather than later. Nothing personal, and contrary to the NYT article, humanity hasn’t shown this to be true.

    Time to dismount the lecturn.

  10. You’re right, Frank — “developing world” is a better term than “third world.” Thanks for pointing that out.

    And, yes, travel is very educational. Case in point: I traveled to downtown Montclair earlier this evening and learned (once again) that overdevelopment is making things rather crowded there.

  11. Going downtown on a Thursday night? Wow.

    You were either feeling lucky, or a little reckless, or some LitFest cocktail chit chat?

  12. Ha, Frank! No literary chit-chat for me — although if the Brontë sisters appear in Montclair, I’m there. 🙂 I was downtown to bring my daughter to gymnastics, after which I stopped at a gas station. (flipside, anticipating charges of climate-change hypocrisy, I drive a hybrid, so I’m only 50% guilty. 🙂 )

  13. Thank you for commenting, stayhyphy — and for the clever line. 🙂 But MANY teens in general, and MANY Montclair teens in particular, seem pretty darn smart and socially aware to me. Besides, whether they’re focused on climate change or not, most teens will live another 60, 70, 80 years being affected by it if things don’t change, so they obviously have a big stake in the matter. At my age, my schedule is pretty much free in 2099. 🙂

  14. Dave, No charges of hypocrisy on your part and I am 100% sure you had the best intentions when you purchased your Prius. If you were told that monasteries were destroyed, nomads land taken, women sterilized, monks tortured, and pristine land destroyed so that your car could have a battery perhaps you would have thought twice. The oil companies are no angels but they don’t market themselves as such either….well, no one believes them when they try.

  15. Thank you, flipside. I just did some googling, and there does seem to be serious problems connected with the mining of material for hybrid batteries — though I couldn’t find stories that included every awful thing you mentioned. Seems to be a damned-if-you-do/damned-if-you-don’t thing, because the major oil companies are a fossil-fuel nightmare for humans and the environment — both in specific ways (such as the Exxon Valdez and BP Deepwater Horizon disasters) and in general ways (contributing hugely to climate change). Maybe totally electric cars are the better solution? While I now feel some guilt driving a hybrid, it does get 50 miles per gallon — which is more than one can say for the gas-guzzling SUVs on the road.

  16. flipside, I don’t doubt your point…I actually want to understand more. Can you point me to sources for my further education.

    As to Toyota, it is a company that went from nothing to something to nothing again. I would never, ever use one of their products. If you want an absolutely hysterical read, go to their social responsibility page. Then go to the web site of a corporation associated with just a modicum of social responsibility. Take the information from both at face value.

    Dave, you are right about choices and priorities. But, you have to draw a line where you will not cross/compromise anymore for the sake of $. BTW, I think you follow this better than most, including myself.

  17. Oops. Stupid phrasing. I have much work to do and did not mean to suggest I am, “All that and a bag of chips!” Far from it.

  18. Thank you, Frank. And I hear you about how difficult it is to draw an ethical line. You also seem to do that well.

    You’re right that Toyota has had issues as a company. Unfortunately, it seems that almost every car company (and almost every large company of any kind) has issues concerning safety and various other things. The General Motors ignition-switch deaths, the VW diesel scandal, etc. Depressing.

  19. Toyota is the gold standard. VW/Audi/Porsche – junior varsity and chicken poop at that. GM, ok, they are varsity level, but maybe a bronze. No, Toyota is far, far – really far and away the industry leader of dubious distinctions. But, they design in California and have strong marketing and lobbying shops.

  20. My wife and I have owned two Toyotas — formerly a Corolla and currently a Prius, and have been happy with each. Admittedly, that’s a VERY small sample.

    Not medal contenders, but honorable mentions go to Packard, DeSoto, and Studebaker. 🙂

  21. Frank, I don’t know if you will find much info online. The Chinese government keeps a very tight lid on things. I spent some time in Tibet so I saw first hand. The locals won’t/can’t say much …you get the feeling there are eyes everywhere. Amazing place nonetheless.
    Extracting energy from the earth is a dirty business whether it is oil, rare earth minerals, or lead and cadmium for solar panels. Wind and of course hydro seem the least destructive. Bhutan is carbon negative deriving all it’s power from hydro. They sell the excess to India and the revenue helps fund education and social services. The average electric bill for citizens is a couple bucks a month.

  22. Wind and hydro — yes, flipside! Glad you mentioned them. The problem, of course, is that those forms of energy are considered not as profitable for big corporations — even as they cost less for consumers and are “cleaner” for the environment. In the U.S. and some other countries, we know what happens when those big corporations “buy” politicians with contributions and relentless lobbying. “Dirtier” energy wins.

  23. Yes, ultimately, “Both Sides, Now”. Countless versions, by different performers, from different eras. Same song.

  24. Frank, nice Joni Mitchell (and Judy Collins, etc.) reference! The idea of “Both Sides Now” definitely applies to a lot of things, in and out of Montclair, past and present. Then there’s “The Circle Game” on the Edgemont Park field house’s relatively new curved entranceway…

  25. Mitchell based the song on the symbolism of flying above the clouds in Saul Bellow’s Henderson The Rain King. I thought it ironic in relation to the MHS student protest as we typicallly associate youth with optimism versus their doom & gloom protest. And, yes, it is LitFest Weekend.

  26. Thank you, Frank! I hadn’t known the background to that song. And an appropriate reference for the Montclair Literary Festival weekend!

    I think any teens protesting climate change are partly being “doom and gloom” (for good reason) but partly also being optimistic — because wanting to stop or slow down this environmental debacle, and wanting to have a livable world when they’re well into adulthood, are more optimistic attitudes than giving up all hope.

  27. Fun video, flipside. Nice to see LeBron James and Matt Damon!

    Sorry to interject when you were addressing Frank. Sure, teens can be unwilling props (for liberal and conservative politicians alike), and, with young people, there’s plenty of knowledge still unlearned and experiences not yet had. But teens of course do have minds of their own, are plenty smart, and can look at issues in a way that’s not as jaded as the way many adults look at issues. That less-jadedness can, in some cases, lead to better insight into issues.

    My older daughter attended Montclair High, and I was impressed with her intelligence, the intelligence of her friends, and the intelligence of students I didn’t know when I saw them at school events. They were not props. Preteen students in Montclair are also darn impressive (my younger daughter is a current middle-schooler).

  28. Actually, mostly Seniors play Pinochle, not Canasta, at Edgemont. Also Texas Hold ‘Em!

    Thanks for not referring to it as “the Senior Center” since it definitely is NOT one, according to our Mayor. (Even though hundreds of Seniors attend numerous varied activities there every day, all year long.)

  29. Thank you for the comment, Jussi! You got me there — I had no idea what seniors play or don’t play at the Edgemont field house, and randomly chose a game name I thought had a funny sound when said out loud. 🙂

    I enjoyed your wryly written second paragraph, which makes a great point. Yes, the field house is essentially a senior center that’s not called a senior center. It would be nice if Montclair had an “official” senior center — whether in the field house or elsewhere.

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