MontClairVoyant: Pink Floyd and Cardi B Amid Montclair Topics, Hee-Hee

“We don’t need no education…”

Pink Floyd

Then don’t read today’s column, because it will contain lots of school-related content after a brief lawsuit and water interlude. And please mention newer music, like Ariana Grande’s. “Thank u, next…”

Next: a New York preservationist’s lawsuit against the Planning Board’s history-harming Lackawanna Plaza approval was denied April 5, but there might be a local suit with more potential. Given that there’s room for an LP supermarket AND total preservation, do you want such a suit?

Legal Rock Reservation

Yes. If Montclair officials won’t stop bad development, maybe the court system would. Plus the defendants might learn something about aesthetics — most courtrooms are nicer-looking than Pinnacle’s buildings.

A new 110-unit Glen Ridge residential building on nearby Baldwin Street may get its water from Montclair. Any future problems with our burg losing that much H2O when downtown overdevelopment will lap up so much?

The Damp Act

No problems other than Montclairites living in Desert (07042) and Upper Desert (07043).

Would our town really get that parched?

Sere-y, Not Siri

“Thirsty…I’m so thirsty…need hydration…not sure I can finish this column…please…give me half…the first half…of a water chestnut.”

On to school stuff, you drama queen. The district’s glacial timeline for Montclair High repairs (after a stairway partly collapsed SEVEN MONTHS AGO) lasts until August 23 — meaning any delay might bleed into the new school year.

And So It Slows…

The silver lining is Montclair’s new park: “Trailer Park.”

Ah, yes, trailers on the George Inness lot have replaced some inaccessible upper-floor classrooms. Speaking of MHS, your reaction to it being 207th out of 336 New Jersey public high schools on a NJ Advance Media list?

Yawn Is a Feeling

Hard to trust a ranking from a company that publishes a newspaper (The Star-Ledger) with such a reduced staff and news hole that it ranks 207th out of our state’s 20 or so daily papers.


Short Question Guy

Montclair High is actually a great, academically sound school that also offers more “intangibles” — diversity, courses with socially aware aspects, etc. — than many other districts do. And its trailers were featured in “Trailer Beautiful” magazine.

Not sure Montclair’s 2019-20 school budget will be featured in “Budget Beautiful” magazine, but doesn’t the budget approved April 4 by the Board of School Estimate (BoSE) have fewer layoffs than earlier drafts and some other good things?

Stay Class(room)y

Hopefully there’ll be enough state funding next year to capitalize the “o” in BoSE. “You may say I’m a dreamer…”

“Imagine” by John Lennon? Didn’t you want newer music in your column? I do! To quote Cardi B and Bruno Mars, “please me”…

Cardi B, the Scrivener

Also on April 4, Montclair’s schools superintendent sent another letter with a clause vaguely threatening “consequences” for refusing this spring’s NJSLAs. Given that those time-wasting tests are PARCCs in disguise, shouldn’t they be given on Halloween?

Are you asking for a river of tears to flow on trick-or-treat mecca Montclair Avenue?

Hurricane Candy

Those tears could be diverted to the Baldwin Street apartment building.

Speaking of fluidic things, no one purchased the liquor license Montclair recently put on sale for $1 million. Was that price insane or what?

Nothing to Fear But Beer Itself

Yup. Driver’s licenses can be renewed for a lot less, and cars have four more wheels than liquor-serving restaurants do.

Finally, we have two important events tonight (April 11) in Montclair. One, at Bullock School, is a rent-control discussion moderated by Councilor Dr. Renee Baskerville. Are fast-rising rents making our town less socioeconomically diverse?

Cost in Space

DING DING DING! We have a winner of “Obvious Question of the Year”!

And author Julia Alvarez is to speak tonight at a library co-sponsored event. Have you read her historical novel “In the Time of the Butterflies,” about three sisters murdered in 1960 for opposing the Dominican dictatorship?

True-Story Tragedy

Depressingly great book. I now feel guilty ending this column with humor, but chuckled with relief that J.M.G. Le Clezio won’t appear with Alvarez to discuss his novel “Desert.” Would have hit too close to home.


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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  1. “Would our town really get that parched?”

    File under redevelopment impact on infrastructure costs…

    In the course of the Council conversation on water capacity, etc., I’m not sure people were aware the Township contracted for 1,000,000 more gallons of water 2+ years ago. Based on the approved 2019 Muni Budget, it seems the amount we will pay this year is $520,835.

    The Township Attorney (I guess the Utility Director was on leave) said we are not using any of this capacity. I think he and the Council are a little confused about what is what and/or were misquoted.

    This is too bad because we are paying a super premium for this additional water…and for what is essentially a 25 year, term-life insurance policy.

    I’ve made a mental note to deduct this $521K when I hear about all the Payment In Lieu Of Taxes receipts.
    I know these infrastructure ‘upgrades’ come with the development strategy. This one hurts because it is paid out years before the ceremonial shovels go into the ground.

    I do wish we had a Master Plan Element for our Utilities. I know it makes too much sense. Sorry.

  2. “Would our town really get that parched?” (PART II)

    File under…I wonder why?

    The $1MM liquor license that isn’t selling.

    Assuming it’s legal, it may be smarter to raffle it off. Have only 500 raffle tickets. $3,000 each. Advertise from Atlantic City to Foxwoods. Done.

  3. Thank you, Frank, for your two-parch…um…two-part comment!

    To reply to the second comment first, I think your idea of raffling off that liquor license is very interesting. It seems Montclair is more concerned with the license being a cash cow than with who gets it, so a raffle would fit in with that.

    Your first comment included many good points — including the fact that development affects infrastructure a LOT. And your utilities master plan wish makes a lot of sense to me.

  4. Not sure I understand your meaning. Whether the Township sells all the raffle tickets or not is secondary to me. I proposed the idea because a million dollars makes the municipal license inaccessible to most people. At least this offers an opportunity to a wider pool of people.

    Knowing Montclair, we would make the primary focus of the Utilities Master Plan a sustainability plan…which would be missed opportunity.

    New subject – but related to H2O – the Montclair Art Museum. What do you think about their new plans?
    The submitted plan for front and side yards:

    Alternate plan for front yard:

    Not enamored with the proposed reflecting pool and circle drive. I like the alternate much better. It will be interesting if the Planning Board refers this application to the Historic Preservation Commission.

  5. Frank, you’re right — I missed that major point of yours about your liquor license raffle idea. It would indeed open things up to the less-wealthy. A good thing.

    I clicked on your two MAM links. I don’t mind the look of the reflecting pool (and I suppose it wouldn’t use THAT much water), but I agree that the second plan is better — more pleasing to the eye, and more of a community feel. Is the second plan a sort of unofficial one, a la your ignored suggestion and others’ ignored suggestions for Lackawanna Plaza? (In your first MAM link, I didn’t have time to read all the “fine print”; I just looked at the two photos.)

    I think the Historic Preservation Commission should have input in ALL applications relating to older structures.

  6. Not my ideas. Yes, the community, inviting, hang-out /’come on in’ feel of the front entrance in the alternate plan plays well agains the brutish mass of the building. The reflecting pool is pretentious, along with the circular drive & silly sidewalks to nowhere are a waste of space. Sidewalks to the street should be placed based on where people actually walk from and a more direct route.

    The side yard creates a viable outdoor public space. The waterfall wall is interesting. I think the side wall is too much…height, overall size. It would be improved if a sloping green or terraced. I do like the concept of taking the parking lot view out of the sightlines when in the space.

    I hope they are not touching the side entrances…again.

  7. “…silly sidewalks to nowhere” — sounds like something Monty Python’s John Cleese would’ve walked on. 🙂

    Yes, “informal” plays well in front of a very formal-looking (though austerely beautiful) building.

    I agree with what you said in your second paragraph.

  8. Yes, an Equality Raffle of the liquor license. Tickets are free to verifiably lower income, diverse residents. Winner can then immediately sell license at market price (say 900k) and become upper income and diverse. And don’t stop there, raffle off other town assets: parking garages, car fleets, schools.

  9. Ok, 900k. Let’s assume we sell all the tickets.

    The taxpayers get $1.5mm…600k above market.
    The winner sells it and gets $897k.
    The buyers get a $900k license, $100k under the Township’s floor price.

    And 299 ticket holders lose $3k.

  10. I enjoyed your satirical comment, lacamina; and I admired your persuasive math, Frank.

    I’m thinking of selling this 4:51 pm comment of mine for $0, but don’t think I’ll get that much… 🙂

  11. Dave,

    I had the humor sophistication of a Big Mac for a long time. Only later in life have I come to appreciate Monty Python.

    Anyway, quite an appropriate clip…especially appropriate to the the MAM Board of Trustees. I can see why they wanted a reflecting pool. Silly, silly and more silly.

    PS: I’m too old to understand the purpose of Bitcoin. I do understand the downside, though.

  12. Frank, I don’t really understand bitcoin, either, but I think the name itself is funny — like Monty Python’s humor.

  13. I think it’s time someone says this. You two should exchange phone numbers or meet up for coffee once a week.

  14. Thank you for your suggestion, captainjp. 🙂 I have indeed never spoken to Frank or met him in person.

    Frank posts interesting comments, and I reply — just as I reply to everyone here and on social media (where I link to my column each week). There’s something to be said for discussing Montclair issues publicly instead of (and in addition to) privately.

    Meeting for coffee might be tough, because I don’t like or drink coffee. But I like coffee ice cream, so maybe I could melt a scoop and pour it into a cup. 🙂

  15. captainjp,

    I take your point and you are not the first poster to suggest this. But, you also noted I have posted once in the last 5 days. Pretty good, don’t you think?

    I will try to cutback on my chit-chatty, strained-humor posts. Not a forte. I did think my posts on the $500K water costs, the liquor license and the MAM would find a small, interested audience. I acknowledge you are not a member of my targeted audience (a dozen or so total).

    The design of Dave’s weekly column offers editorial leeway to posters in how they can respond. It provides an alternative to Bnet’s discontinued Open Threads. I think you understand by now the typical range of comments you can expect.

    The MAM comment was really about a bigger issue than the Trustee’s design choices.

    Our municipal historic preservation policy is any improvements to the grounds of any historically designated property are outside of the Historic Preservation Commission’s purview.

    Further, the Township and the Trustees have held the opinion that the Museum should not be locally designated as Museum’s Trustees are the best stewards of its preservation.

    Yet, the Planning Board may still refer the MAM application to the HPC for an advisory opinion in spite of this stated policy and, in this case, the opinion the Museum is the appropriate preservation steward.

    Then again, they may not. Of course, that will just reinforce my point that the HPC’s role is superfluous.

    Time and time again the Township refers these types of applications to the HPC because of the unresolved ordinance and policy conflict…and Township wants the appearance the HPC adds value. This Council campaigned in 2012 on reducing the application review time and red tape. They specifically called out the HPC role as a major problem and revising the HPC role was one of the first ordinances they passed. So, now they are allowing this backsliding (because we have an election next year?)

    I’m saying the Council needs to pick a lane and stop this tomfoolery.

    What is your opinion?

  16. “The design of Dave’s weekly column offers editorial leeway to posters in how they can respond” — thank you for saying that, Frank, and I’m glad you see it that way. Given that each of my columns often addresses multiple topics, comments can obviously be on multiple topics — and I welcome that. 🙂

  17. Thanks for the link, Frank! I saw that letter a few minutes ago on Share Montclair. The mega-mansion proposal withdrawn! Nice when good news happens once in a while.

    Of course, after two large, vintage houses were torn down to make way for the planned 60,000-square-foot monstrosity, what might now be the future of that combined property?

  18. Good news? Maybe. Maybe bad news. What is worse than a 60 ksf house?
    Why are you assuming properties will now be combined?
    Remember, there is at least a 3rd property purchased in the neighborhood.

  19. True, Frank, those properties might be separated again.

    What’s worse than a 60,000-square-foot house (bigger than the damaged Notre-Dame Cathedral’s 51,667 square feet)? Not much. That area isn’t zoned for, say, a mixed-use apartment/commercial behemoth of the kind that Pinnacle likes to build. And hopefully never will be rezoned for such a purpose, though almost anything’s possible when it comes to Montclair development.

  20. Frank, that does seem like an unnecessary/colossal waste of time. (Maybe there’s some historic relics buried there we don’t know about it, such as Yogi Berra bats from early in his career? 🙂 )

    Of course, when the HPC chimes in on REALLY important matters, such as the Lackawanna Plaza plan, they’re often mostly ignored. 🙁 Ugh.

  21. Yup. They also were asked to review a lawn sign on The Crescent, a gated fence on Porter Place, and my favorite, Undercliff/Lloyd Road AFTER the homes had been torn down. If we can hand the Preservation keys to the Planning & Zoning Boards, I would think these same boards could manage reviewing these applications without the HPC’s help. It will be interesting to see if they get a bite at the MAM proposal.

    What is historically interesting about the MAM site plans is the South side yard, where the amphitheater is going, was not originally part of the MAM property when the building was designed and built in 1913. This is why it had the grand, circular drive entrance in front. The MAM bought the adjacent land to provide an appropriate, open space buffer around the building. Of course, this was converted to the parking lot that exists today…and makes the South entrance the primary building entrance.

    Yet, the plan is to retain the space for grand, circular drive for historic pretense to carriages and accommodate a few visitor drop-offs. Museums encourage contemplation of their art both inside and out. The Trustees are foregoing the opportunity to create contemplative space in the front of the building to accommodate a foregone transportation feature. This is also in spite of their strategy to expand the Museum’s offering beyond its Native American charter…by expanding their outdoor art, e.g, video monitors, tree wraps, sculptures. Set amongst concrete pavers and block curbs. I just don’t get their thinking.

  22. Yes, Frank, there seems to be a big range when it comes to what the Historic Preservation Commission looks at.

    To be fair to the HPC, I don’t think it expected those vintage Undercliff and Lloyd Road homes to be demolished before it had to a chance to weigh in. While the town apparently granted permission for the tear-downs, those tear-downs were still VERY premature.

    If Montclair’s Planning and Zoning boards were more preservation-minded, the HPC wouldn’t be needed as much. But those two boards clearly are NOT preservation-minded enough.

    And thanks for the interesting and informative thoughts about the history of MAM’s property and the plans for that property’s future. I agree that a community-minded space in front of the museum would be nice.

  23. Fair? The problems with the HPC go back many, many years. Objectively, the HPC has often been its own worst enemy. Yes, they have always lacked an appropriate level of support and even subjected to abuse, but they control their mission, policies, practices and execution. They have fundamental issues in each of these areas. This is not directed specifically at current members, but this group is not breaking new ground as far as change goes. I left the HPC because I was ineffectual in changing things. Realistically, the environment around the HPC hasn’t improved and I can’t see it improving.

    The only opportunity left for the HPC is to adjust to the environment instead of hoping for some divine intervention. If they can’t adjust, well, you already know what I think should happen.

  24. Frank, I don’t have a strong memory of what the HPC was like in previous years, but I think most of the current members know what they’re doing and have their hearts in the right place. (I don’t include in my praise the current HPC member who was one of February’s Planning Board votes for the history-wrecking Lackawanna Plaza redo.)

  25. Like previous members, they are good people trying to do a public good. Like previous members, they offer a range of related skills. Like previous members, I draw the line at they know what they’re doing. A harsh critique, but fair.

    They were the sitting HPC when the Township approved demolishing the Lackawanna Train Station. They are the sitting HPC that the sitting Planning Board conveyed their view that the HPC is considered a joke. They were the sitting HPC that allowed the Council to emasculate them with their very public Lackawanna resolution. They’re not having good terms of office.

  26. I hear you, Frank, but the main sense I get is that Historic Preservation Commission members try but are often ignored. The HPC simply hasn’t been given the power to have the clout it should have. Many of Montclair’s officials and developers are undoubtedly quite happy that the HPC exists as a kind of fig leafy window-dressing to make it seem like the people running and shaping our town care more about historic preservation than they actually do.

  27. Agree, but as I said, it goes well beyond being ignored. A lot of 2-faced people involved.

    The HPC doesn’t use the power it does have. And it “power” is not insignificant. They just don’t understand it, or worse, they don’t want to use it. I can’t decide.

    So, the HPC can visit Pity City, but they can’t live there.

  28. I’ve spoken in-depth with only one current HPC member (who I’m impressed with), so there’s not much I can add at this point — except that “Pity City” is a great turn of phrase!

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