MontClairVoyant: Airports in 1776? They Changed Montclair’s History

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DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
After Trump’s July 4th remark about Revolutionary War soldiers taking over airports in the 1770s, can you apply similar anachronistic stupidity to Montclair?

Sincerely,
I Have a Meme

Well, George Washington’s troops quaffed mead in The MC hotel’s rooftop bar while gaping at Manhattan’s one-story skyscrapers in the distance.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Did those troops also stand on the School of Rock float during Montclair’s 1776 Fourth of July Parade?

Sincerely,
The Bowling Stones

Yes, along with Betsy Ross on lead vocals predicting six more stars on the flag as she sang “Hey Nineteen.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Hmm…two more new states than in the song “At Seventeen.” Now, can you remind me what Thomas Paine wrote in “Common Sense”?

Sincerely,
Doubting Thomas

That 1776 pamphlet urged a vote for independence from single-use plastic bags at the upcoming July 23, 2019, Township Council meeting — arguing that John Hancock wore a paper bag over his head at Knicks games.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Speaking of the TC, residents again sharply criticized that governing body at its July 9, 2019, meeting for not making Renee Baskerville deputy mayor when it was her turn for that post. Has the TC reasonably explained its unfairness?

Sincerely,
Wouldn’t Gloat About That Vote

No. The TC decision was even more puzzling than Montclair’s 1776 Township Council not appointing any member as deputy airline pilot.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
The TC was also questioned at the July 9, 2019, meeting about why the future building on the old Hahne’s parking lot will have 10 percent affordable housing units rather than a much-needed 20 percent. Is the Council THAT palsy-walsy with developers?

Sincerely,
Wuv Is All You Need

Yes, but don’t forget this line in the Declaration of Independence’s first draft: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal — except developers, who are more important.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Getting back to “Common Sense,” didn’t that pamphlet also presciently praise the 2019 founding of the Tenants Organization of Montclair after Paine became irked that fast-rising rents would make our town unaffordable for many in the 21st century?

Sincerely,
Moan-a Lease-a

Obviously, Paine was skilled at pre-googling. He even predicted the reopening of the 2017-shuttered Bellevue Theatre, where British troops watched “The Madness of King George” film in the 1770s and were mesmerized…by the popcorn.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Did Paine also predict 83 teacher toasts in Spring 2019 that would raise $52,000 for the admirable Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence?

Sincerely,
Parties for a Purpose

No, but in 1776 he saw the likenesses of 83 teachers on 83 pieces of toast, and gave each crispy slice of bread better parental leave.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
What did Patrick Henry say after declaiming “Give me liberty, or give me death!”?

Sincerely,
PH Factor

“Give me repaired Montclair High stairs, or give me Star Trek transporters!”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Was Alexander Hamilton there for Mr. Henry’s indelible moment?

Sincerely,
Erin Burr

No, Al was stewing at Bay Street Station over a canceled NJ Transit train that would’ve taken him to Manhattan to see Lin-Manuel Miranda’s blockbuster musical.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Abigail Adams implored her Founding Father husband John to “remember the ladies.” What was she referring to?

Sincerely,
The Adams Family

Difficulties that Montclair girls’ softball teams sometimes have finding field time for games and practices.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Speaking of sports, did the amazing USA women’s soccer champions visit the White House before the War of 1812?

Sincerely,
Megan Rapinoe Fan Club

Yes, and Dolley Madison served ice cream she brought back from Applegate Farm on her horse. Dolley was a member of Canter & Gallop Montclair.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Oh…Bike & Walk Montclair’s predecessor. Tomorrow evening, July 12, 2019, there’s a vigil planned to protest cruel immigrant detention camps such as the ones the Trump administration is running in Texas. Will The Founding Fathers be at that vigil?

Sincerely,
BFF (Ben Franklin Furby)

If they were as incompetent as Trump, they’d be The Floundering Fathers.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
What was Crispus Attucks’ job history before being tragically slain in the Boston Massacre?

Sincerely,
Fenway We Were

Dock worker and Montclair Township Council member.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
How did Attucks communicate with fellow Montclair councilors when in Boston? Carrier pigeon? Frigidaire pigeon?

Sincerely,
A.C. Iz-Onn

No, FaceTime and Baristanet’s comments section. His longish screen name: “Born Two Centuries Too Early to Use Digital Technology But Using It Anyway.”

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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48 COMMENTS

  1. What the Affordable Housing requirement is elsewhere in town has nothing to do with the price of eggs in a redevelopment zone.

    Is anyone applying that argument to housing density? Our downtown housing density ordinance requirement allows 45 units/acre of which 9 would be AH. This plan now calls for allowing 74 units/acre and 7 AH. Shock? Horror? Nope.

    It’s worth noting the housing commission is not complaining about increased density because they put on their blinders and focus only on the composition of the housing stock. A bigger housing base is a good thing to them. Maybe we should require 9 instead of 7, but a 2-unit difference is a de minimis deviation to our objective in facilitating all this redevelopment.

    Montclair’s popular growth strategy mandate is about increasing revenues. How we want to spend this new revenue does not have a mandate. Some want a downpayment on a senior center, some better athletic facilities, etc., etc. Therefore, the question is whether this is a good deal for us, vis a vis our objective?

    The plan call for 20 public parking spaces (that would cost $25k/space at todays rate). We are getting a 1-time, $175K contribution. These two will provide revenue/cost avoidance of $675K.

    We get the ongoing income from these 20 spaces and more tax revenue from the additional market rate units.

    Is this a good deal? I don’t know. I do know the argument to reduce the revenue definitely doesn’t have a popular mandate. The 10% AH requirement has been in our redevelopment plans since 2002 because the mandate – that hasn’t wavered -is to maximize revenues.

    Lastly, to argue the Planning Board recommended 20% is pretty funny. They also recommended saving Lackawanna Train Station when they knew it was the Council’s call. When it came to be their call, they folded like a house of cards.

  2. Thank you, Frank! Several excellent points.

    Yes, density is a major issue, and — like various other recent and coming Montclair projects — the one slated to rise on the old Hahne’s parking lot has way too many units. That said, if there are going to be too many units, 20% affordable would be better than 10% affordable — not for increasing developer profits somewhat more or increasing the tax base somewhat more, but for the crucial matter of helping to keep a decent amount of economic and racial diversity in Montclair. Meaning I don’t like the deal that reduced the affordable percentage from 20 to 10 for the old Hahne’s parking lot project.

    And, yes, it’s annoying when a board acts kind of tough knowing they’ll be “overruled.”

  3. Somewhat unclear language in my above comment. Twenty percent rather than ten percent affordable housing units mean slightly lower developer profits and a little less tax revenue for Montclair, but to me the potential diversity benefits (economic and racial) are worth it.

  4. I am a supporter of AH.
    What is interesting is how did we determine 20% is the right number for our ordinance? It used to be 16.7%. I vaguely recall how that number came to be… it was how that past Council was feeling that night. We subsequently increased it to 20% because we were behind in our COAH requirement and this was a way to catch-up. It appears, legally, we have caught up. So what is the right number?

    What if the Council said we are going to stay with 10% and take the additional revenue an give it to the school district…along with the $175K contribution (currently targeted for downtown parking improvements for the merchants)? Is that as valid alternative? …and don’t say you want both. That is how Montclair got so deep in debt.

  5. Well, 20% is a nice round number — easy to remember, easy to calculate, and so on. 🙂

    I’d rather have 20% affordable housing units than 10% with some money going to, say, the school district. Simpler, things stay in their own “silos,” and what if a money-contribution commitment was reneged on?

  6. LOL! The New Jersey area is looking VERY bright in that stunning image, and Montclair is undoubtedly contributing its illumination share! I think I can just make out the lights of Valley & Bloom… 🙂

  7. Not quite Paris, but Montclair, thanks to Pinnacle, is the new “La Ville-Lumière” – in suburban Essex.

  8. Ha! And…hmm…might explain the addition of Faubourg — “a modern French brasserie” — to Montclair’s array of restaurants.

  9. LOL. Too bad Faubourg didn’t get a French proofreader. French brasserie? I’ll guess the entrees are double the price of a generic brasserie and the equally modern American bourbon also ‘quite unique’. I’m sure people are falling all over themselves to get a seat.

  10. Funny! Yes, Faubourg — while having a rather nice-looking space — is too pricey and “upscale” and other things I try to avoid in a restaurant. If I can’t get a reservation for July 32, it ain’t happening. 🙂

  11. One commenter in the “Share Montclair” Facebook group said Tuesday that she spent $33 on two cocktails there — before tax and tip!

  12. Well, I wasn’t there…drinks of some sort. 🙂

    As you alluded to earlier, this Montclair “brasserie” seems fancy rather than informal like a real brasserie in France. My family and I ate in several Paris ones in Spring 2018, and they never felt pretentious.

  13. “Some want a downpayment on a senior center” — YES, please!
    The “Not a Senior Center” house at Edgemont is utterly inadequate and an embarrassment compared to the facilities in other nearby, much less affluent communities. The Township claims to promote “Aging in Place” yet does little to provide the necessary infrastructure and programs to make that happen. The miniscule staff does a terrific job with the limited resources they are given to work with. The growing senior population is completely marginalized by those who apparently don’t think they’ll ever get old themselves.

  14. Family is the operative word here. This is not trying to be a family-oriented restaurant. It is an American version of a French interpretation of American informal adult dining. Phew! Say that 10 times.

    From the descriptions, a seemingly well executed concept in aligning with its target clientele. As such, $16 is a good price point for drinks.

  15. Preservation is always being blamed and demeaned as a cause that undermines Affordable Housing and it is not true. Its the Council and Planning Board’s responsibility for not providing enough affordable housing with re development. The Social fabric of people needs to be preserved in existing neighborhoods. Not neighborhoods being demolished to make way for too little affordable housing in big development. Opponents to preservation say… “all we hear about is the saving the train sheds” but they’re not listening to the fact that big development is not delivering enough affordable housing.

  16. I don’t think I know people who think HP and AH can’t coexist. I do know people who have no particular use for either public policy. I am certainly not aware of a municipal policy to preserve the social fabric of Montclair’s neighborhoods.

  17. Jussi, thank you for the comment! Very well said! I totally agree that Montclair should have a much better, more “official” senior center. And you make a great point that everyone gets older and thus a senior center is a place that many, many people can enjoy or eventually enjoy. An obvious point, of course, but it needs to be said and I’m glad you said it.

  18. Frank R.: Yes, Faubourg — rather than “family-oriented” — seems more like a place for younger, affluent, supposedly “hip” restaurant-goers. (Though I’m sure some families will go.)

    “It is an American version of a French interpretation of American informal adult dining” — ha! That is indeed a mouthful. 🙂

  19. frankgg: Excellent point, and well stated! Historic preservation and affordable housing can definitely co-exist. And it’s totally true that certain developers in Montclair are not delivering enough affordable housing. If it weren’t for the 10% or 20% affordable housing they’re (not always?) required to provide, they’d happily provide 0%. How community-minded… 🙁 Even as they sometimes pay lip service to Montclair’s diversity in their pretentious marketing.

    And you’re right, Frank R., that some leaders in Montclair (not only developers) don’t care that much about historic preservation as well as not caring that much about affordable housing.

  20. Just leaders? Ha! 9 out of 10 Mtc. voters don’t support historic preservation as a public policy.

    You may pooh-pooh that figure. You shouldn’t. This is one reason they will trash the current demo ordinance draft.

    We need to just accept that HP as public policy is and has been HP-Lite.
    Even if a third could be persuaded to change & support HP, that still leaves a majority that don’t. And that is what our elected and appointed officials act on. That is the mandate.

  21. Well, some non-leaders don’t support historic preservation, either, Frank. 🙂

    I’m not sure where you got that “9 out of 10” figure, or whether it’s a guesstimate, but it seems high to me. One thing many residents like about Montclair, and one reason why people move here, is that it’s an old-looking suburb with many vintage structures. To feel that way and to be against historic preservation seems contradictory. Of course, I realize that when people own a home and want to make changes to it, they may suddenly feel differently about HP.

    Also, re your third paragraph, a number of Montclair officials don’t necessarily respect majority public sentiment. They do respect majority developer sentiment… 🙁

  22. “Of course, I realize that when people own a home and want to make changes to it, they may suddenly feel differently about HP.”

    “And, yes, it’s annoying when a board acts kind of tough knowing they’ll be “overruled.”

    Thank you Dave.

  23. The percentage of people who vote in Montclair is too low to make considerations of how the majority of residents feel.

  24. That’s a really good point, Frank. I wish the voting percentage were higher. It probably would be if Montclair’s May municipal voting were moved to the same day as other elections in November.

    There may also be a feeling among some residents that too many elected officials “represent” developers more than average citizens so what’s the point of voting? (As for myself, I always vote in Montclair elections.)

  25. Preservation Air Pilot to Co-Pilot, “our case is going down!”

    Yes, the “they don’t vote” argument! The offspring of the Silent Majority. I miss them. Where did they go?
    Of course, 2 are members of the Planning Board and did not vote on Lackawanna Train Station. We believe in preservation so much we are not going to vote. A watershed moment for the preservation movement.

    Both of you believe a majority of Montclair supports our historic preservation public policy. Further, you believe that less than a handful of developers working with a small group of community leaders have somehow co-opted this preservation majority. You believe you can walk anywhere in Montclair and 6 of 10 adults you query would support HP here…even though only 2 of those 6 would bother with local elections.

    I do like your optimism.

  26. “Of course, 2 are members of the Planning Board and did not vote on Lackawanna Train Station” — Frank R., I’ve said this before and I know you agree…on a decision that important, a board member should vote either yes or no, not abstain.

    Well, I do believe many Montclair residents are in favor of historic preservation — and I hope many of them vote in 2020. And, yes, I think developers and too many of Montclair’s leaders have ignored majority HP sentiment.

  27. Most importantly, the court will see evidence, and history will show, the unanimous approval by the Council AND the PB to demolish the historic station. Those two bodies represents a lot of the various local constituencies.

    It will also show the support of Bike/Walk Montclair, the Montclair Environmental Commission, the Montclair Housing Commission, the Montclair NAACP, the Montclair BID. Getting the BID to reach consensus on anything is amazing in its own right.

    Now fast-forward to late-Winter, 2020. The candidates/slates are up to speed. Let’s ignore what could happen with Lackawanna Plaza. The HPC has proposed in late 2019 two, new residential historic districts. These are the first HD in a residential area. Yup, never done that before. The current Council accepts only one as sort of a test.

    The HPC also sends the Estate Section HD forward sometime in 2020, as well as the Town Center HD Westward expansion. I mean, really, if the Estate Section has no local historic value, then the candidates really need to talk about the existing HP public policy. Maybe the economy has stumbled and all is not so rosey. Maybe not. Maybe, you can hear the Estate Section property owners saying, “pick me! pick me for a historic district!” I can’t.

    And then there is the TCHD expansion area. Is there anything really historic here? There is another Hampton House-like wannabe. Yes, definitely the Art Museum. Of course, that has its 2019 approval to hollow out the hill (for a patio now) and an oversize kiddie pool in front? I guess it will protect the air rights at some point.

    Yes, the 2020 Municipal Election in the first week of May will be interesting. Kinda hard not to be after our 2016 election. A lot of pent-up demand?

  28. I hear you, Frank. Well said, and there is indeed reason for pessimism. Many people in leadership positions (governmental and otherwise) in Montclair have been disappointing in their stances on Lackawanna, other development, and historic preservation. But I believe there are many people those leaders are NOT representing. Unfortunately, many leaders are like that (not representative). Much damage has been done, and the 2020 election is obviously too late to undo that damage. I’m hoping there’ll be anti-overdevelopment/pro-preservation mayoral and Township Council candidates in 2020 who, if they win, could prevent some future damage. No guarantee there will be such candidates, but fingers crossed…

  29. It has been 7 years and the township has changed a lot. Maybe this Council is not as connected to their base (or it has changed) from when they started out. I learned his week that people in/around downtown have renamed Montclair to “New Montclair”. Note: no worries, they still call us Upper Montclair even though we want to double the density next to the train station.

    The statistics, and the knowing folks, say the Old Guard is shrinking as a % of the total and we are also not faring as well with the 18-30 demographic. The voting bloc – and the progressive candidates – you seek will come out of the middle… more than ever.

    Roughly accepting this and other considerations, do you think most candidates will opt for the slate approach or the Baskerville, “I’m not beholden to anyone” (independent) approach?

    FWIIW: What are the main Township-wide and ward-specific issues? Maybe a whimsical, summer column on the election issues – both mountains and mole hills?

  30. It’s definitely possible that current Township Council members are not as connected to their base(s) as they were before (whoever/whatever that base or those bases might be). Perhaps Renee Baskerville is closest to still having the pulse of her constituency.

    Downtown is indeed “New Montclair” in many ways, or will be soon. 🙁

    No clue whether more candidates will opt for the slate or go-it-alone approach. I personally prefer the latter. What about you?

    To me, the main 2020 election issues will be development (too much) and diversity (losing some of it). Many other issues, but secondary. Our school system is also a huge issue, of course, but that’s more a Board of Education than Township Council thing.

    I might wait until the election is closer before doing a “special” election-issues column per se. 🙂

  31. I much prefer the latter.
    Money, money & politics. I suggest a 3-part series.
    All else is secondary.

  32. Yes, Frank, the more not-on-a-slate Township Council members the better.

    “Money, money & politics” are major election issues indeed (that strongly tie in with one of the issues — overdevelopment — I mentioned).

    The main topic of my next (July 18) column will be the reported-on-Baristanet impending departure of Montclair’s schools superintendent.

  33. This report?

    missedthetarget May 13, 2019 at 4:22 pm
    Don’t worry. Very soon there will be a new BOE President and she will fix all of this. As long as she is not too busy searching for a new Interim Superintendent that is.

  34. Great memory of seeing that comment, Frank! Okay, “missedthetarget” wins “Prediction of the Year”…

  35. Prediction? Nah, I see it more as a scoop.

    I’m sure the insiders and key stakeholders envisioned this last year. I have to say, when it comes to the school district in this town, people play hardball. It’s nothing new – just a reminder.

  36. Well, this certainly takes school financing off the table as an campaign issue. The lack of leadership and the lack of collaboration among parent/teachers/admin/board should disqualify anybody wanting to give the district more money. I have to believe this level of system disfunction has to mean there is considerable waste throughout the system. Otherwise, a) collaboration/cooperation is highly overrated, and/or b) Montclair is a special universe with special circumstances, special needs, and…just flat-out special people.

    I will say this should be the last administration that permits the Mayor to select the BOE members. After 7 years, it pretty obvious that hasn’t worked out for us.

  37. You’re right, Frank — a scoop of sorts.

    There are obviously various reasons why the superintendent is apparently leaving; I’ll get into some of them in my next column this Thursday. Don’t want to “scoop” myself too much here. 🙂

    As for school-district funding, I don’t think students, teachers, etc., should be shortchanged in money because of dysfunction among some of Montclair’s past and present education leaders (in Central Office, on the BOE…). There’s some waste, as there is almost everywhere in the world, but I don’t believe it’s rampant in Montclair.

    At this point, I agree that an elected BOE would be a good idea — though I’m happier with the current BOE than some past ones.

  38. Dave, you always seems to think the Boards are getting better…until they don’t. Your hope springs eternal.

    Not advocating for elected BoE. Nor do I think a citizen’s advisory group working with Mayor is a good idea. I just think the Council should have an equal say in the nominations.

    Rampant? No. The CAP generally prevents this. Considerable waste has many components & indicators. “Oops!, we’ $10MM short” would be an example.

  39. Actually, no, Frank. 🙂 I thought part of the BOE was very problematic around the time of Superintendent MacCormack, then things got somewhat better, then I was not pleased with several new appointments, then those new members were eventually all gone, and now I’m happier.

    As for waste, I suppose one could read T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” abridged or unabridged. 🙂 (That sentence I just wrote is of little relevance but sounded good. 🙂 )

  40. Thank you, Frank, but apology not necessary. 🙂 As critical as I am of many things, I do get a little too hopeful about some other things. 🙂

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