Montclair, N.J. – Councilor At Large Peter Yacobellis acknowledged COVID-19 heroes and shared his vision for Montclair in a wide-ranging virtual town hall meeting Wednesday night that covered topics including rent stabilization, a proposed bike lane to connect with Essex-Hudson Greeway and Montclair’s 3.8 million American Rescue Plan allocation and protections for the LGBTQ community.
Yacobellis opened the presentation portion of the town hall by holding a moment of silence for the 68 Montclair residents who died from the virus since the pandemic began. He also shared the announcement that the council passed a proclamation declaring March 9th COVID-19 heroes day to honor essential workers. He also shared information about obtaining the COVID-19 vaccine and acknowledged some of the council’s accomplishments to date.
Yacobellis then shared that Montclair would be receiving $3.8 million from the American Rescue Plan and he shared what the township council would be able to use that money for, saying that the money could help the town make up for lost revenue and prevent the town from having to raise taxes or lay off workers.
Yacobellis went on to address rent control issue in town, saying that 70% of Montclair renters are not protected by the rent control ordinance that was passed in 2020 and has since been fought in the courts by the Montclair Property Owners Association.
“The current law that was passed last year, that’s on hold right now because of ongoing litigation,” said Yacobellis. “So my thought is, why don’t we try and avoid a costly and divisive ballot referendum and try to negotiate?”
Yacobellis suggested switching from a fixed rate to a variable rate.
“The rate right now in the rent control bill is four and a quarter percent. It doesn’t matter if you are in a recession. It doesn’t matter if the economy is booming. It’s four and a quarter percent. My preference would be to see it be a variable rate, something that changes with the economic conditions. And it could be set by the rent control board.”
Yacobellis also wanted to see Montclair extend rent control protection to two and three family units, categories of renters currently left out of the ordinance.
Yacobellis shared some “dream big” ideas for the township, including a new municipal complex with a plaza; a new skatepark in Montclair, and a dedicated bike lane connecting the Essex-Hudson Greenway to Montclair Center via Glenridge Avenue.
Yacobellis said he was actively working to get the township to adopt an LGBTQ equality agenda, including changing over single occupancy restrooms in the township to be labeled all gender restrooms; appoint an LGBQT community liaison; and deploy inclusivity training to the township work force.
He also announced that as a private person, he, along with a diverse group of Montclair leaders and residents, have formed a robust advisory board to launch Out Montclair, a group focused on building community and hosting educational and social events for the LGBTQ community in Montclair, including a Montclair Pride Festival in 2022.