MontClairVoyant: Fake Speech Creates Woodman Field of Screams

June is the month of graduation/moving-up ceremonies in Montclair for 12th, 8th, and 5th-graders. Would you like to offer a sample speech for anyone who speaks at those gatherings?

Talk of the Gown

Sure! “Nice to see everyone here today at Woodman Field, half of which should be called Woodwoman Field. And, to tell you the truth, I don’t see a heckuva lot of wood here — but it does seem to be a field, albeit not a profession, so –”

Stop! You’re off to a bad start. Can you do better?

Don’t Hassle the Tassel

“The planned expansion of another field — Watchung Field — would be too big and severely encroach on the adjacent playground. That’s why former Montclair resident Jimmy Webb wrote the 1969 song ‘Where’s the Playground Susie,’ which –”

Stop! You’re off-topic for a commencement speech. Can you right the ship?

Be Classier to the Class

Okay. “All of you — Montclair students, parents, teachers, school staffers — have been through a lot the past 15 months with COVID. Some people you know became ill, instruction was all-remote and then hybrid, Batman’s mask didn’t cover his mouth –”

Stop! You were doing okay for a while with that last answer, and then… Can you recover?

Geddy’s Burg Address

“Montclair’s talented, hard-working educators deserve the ‘Toast to the Teachers’ program each year, but maybe even more so this year. Make the toast multigrain, with a soft yet chewy crust, or a chewy yet soft crust, or –”

Stop! If you’re going to joke about the Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence’s “Toast” program name, be more original. Meanwhile, teachers are being lauded yet the school district might cut three-dozen staff?

Irony Isn’t Dead

“Woodman Field listeners, the possible cutting of important staff when the district seemingly has enough money and federal relief funds are coming is penny dumb and pound dumber and dollar dumberer and –”

Stop! Can you advise students to be their best selves?

Jenna Riss

“Do good as you move through life — as the Northeast Earth Coalition is doing via its pantry project distributing over 12,000 pounds of free food a month in Montclair and nearby towns like Clifton, known simply as ‘Clif’ until the edibles it received reached a ‘ton’ –”

Stop! Can you get serious?

Far From Sirius

“Also remember Black history. Montclair schools and offices will be closed June 18 for Juneteenth, which is actually June 19 but that date falls on a Saturday this year. Juneteenth marks the end of slavery in the US, which are the initials of ‘Ugh Slavery’ and –”

Stop! I know, I know, and the initials of Undine Spragg in Edith Wharton’s “Custom of the Country” novel. Sigh…continue…

The Age of Guiltiness

“With the closed-during-COVID Bellevue Avenue library branch thankfully reopened for limited hours starting June 8, remember to apply half the usual sunscreen when reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s ‘Half of a Yellow Sun,’ or –”

Stop! Speaking of June 8, can you mention something about New Jersey’s Tuesday primary election in this column’s fake commencement speech?

Campaign in the Neck

“I’m sure many of the adults here at Woodman Field were happy to vote in person again, to now have paper ballots at polling places, to see Montclair’s admirable Nia Gill run for reelection as state senator, and to write in SpongeBob SquarePants for –”

Stop! Can you end this column on a reasonable note?

Not Holding My Breath

“DeCamp is resuming limited commuter service on June 14, which is exactly one month before Bastille Day. So any commencement attendees wanting to ride a DeCamp bus across the ocean to Paris…all aboard!”



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. I want to thank L. Bowers of Team Up Montclair for raising the question back in 2019 of just who owns Woodman Field.

    First, I never knew there was a question. So, I give credit to Team Up Montclair for flagging this for the general public.

    I was focused on the community-wide travesty & meltdown that was Lackawanna Plaza.
    I just put the question of how Montclair didn’t know who owned Woodman Field on my to-do list to resolve.

    I did resolve it the other day, of course. It didn’t take long. Kinda simple. Needs some follow-up, but I’m going to delegate to the Township attorney. The scary part…if you were here in Town between 2014-2019…was the separation of servers shared among the Township, the Police Dept and the school district. Talk about a mess. I think we even called in the Geek Squad at one point.

    Well, deja vu. How? Why? What? Three words – an elected school board.
    It is really not fair to enjoy this, but….

  2. Thank you for the comment, Frank. Who owns Woodman Field would make for an interesting or not interesting graduation speech at…Woodman Field. I also didn’t know that ownership was even a question, unless you’re being facetious? Whenever Montclair High’s football team has a good game, I suppose they “own” Woodman Field that day. 😉

  3. I am not being one bit facetious.

    The problem is a good chunk off this 1904 land purchase by the Town is still public land, for public use, per the contract, as parkland/playground/public resort use only. A new State Law in March, 1916, authorized allowing Montclair public schools to ALSO use town parkland. Interestingly, in 1922, 5 ½ years later to clean up certain legalities, the Board of Town Commissioners only conveyed a portion of the park land to the Board of Education.

    First, note that I’ve always called the entire athletic complex, from Chestnut to Champlain Terr, Woodman Field. The Township, in 1922, conveyed to Board of Education the park land along a portion of Essex Way, starting from what is now Champlain Terr southward to an East/West line that runs through the middle of the Furlong Field House. The Township owns the rest of the land from that E/W bisecting line South (most know it as Essex Park, which includes Fortunato Field, the Arena, Swimming Pool, parking lot) down to Label St.

    So, if we get our Elected Board of Education in November, we really need to address the land ownership vs improvements…and all the conflicts it creates. Hence, my analogy to the IT server issue…which took years to extract the various parties. What a mess. We can fix this after the vote, but I would think we need to have a plan in place before. Now, the BoE relationship with Team Up Montclair is just a big conflict for the Township. If you think having the President of the NJEA as Mayor is a potential conflict, this is worse, ethics-wise.

    Let’s see how this gets handled.

  4. Wow — I had no idea. But is the Woodman Field use situation/ownership situation a problem in day-to-day reality, or a harmless quirky history of the site?

  5. No worries. We live in the age of Trump. And a US DOJ that is actually more morally challenged than the Pentagon of the 1960’s. And a FDA that approves a drug that doesn’t work and a accredits a vaccine factory without standards..for an emergency authorized, limited use drug with existing life-threatening side effects.

    Anyway, no worries, Rule of Law….nah! Champion the Public realm in Montclair? Ha! Taxpayers paying for parks they can’t use. No problem, doesn’t everyone have a yard anyway? And that is where the little ones should be.

    Yes, to answer your question. Just some harmless quirky stuff. As I said, the collective intelligence of Montclair is, at best, typical. That’s why I gave the IT server example. It was as typical as Montclair gets. What people don’t know is…well, it just beneficial to society. Ignorance is the lubricant of a productive society.

    Which, incidently, makes the League of Women’s Voters obsolete.

  6. Frank, if I’m understanding you correctly, there is more land in and around Woodman Field that could theoretically be used as a public park? I’m not sure that’s a major issue, because there are of course a number of nice parks in various other parts of Montclair.

  7. Dave,

    I am seriously enjoying our journey.

    Ok, it was a public park first. Taxpayers agreed to create Essex, Nishuane & Mountainside, among others. It was our period of social enlightenment.

    An analogy: Imagine NY State passed a law a law (let’s call it Chapter 59 for kicks) that allowed the NYC schools to “use” Central Park as its exclusive sports complex. The public had to submit requests each September to use the park…for a fee. And god knows there are plenty of other parks in NYC.

    Ok, forget that analogy. Let’s go back to my IT server divorce. The Township had “extra capacity”, so the schools, short on funding, were invited to use our facilities. A very definite blurring of lines. When the district & stakeholders lost their minds, the Township tried to extricate itself. Now the same stakeholders want a divorce, but they think they get to keep all the communal property.

    This will be a long, but familiar journey. Another Montclair chapter of the ends justifies the means.

  8. And one of the best parts that I can guarantee you Montclair voters don’t yet see is we are throwing out the leadership of the school district. We are having a vote of no confidence. (This is great! Life is good! Another generation wants to make their imprint!)

    We get our elected school board…and then maybe 1,000 of registered voters actually vote for school positions, funding, etc. In a short, “oh, where did the time go?” amount of time, the “cooperation” between the municipal government & the school board vanishes. Now the elected members of the board wants to implement some policy or make some improvement to the field house or the tract Fortunato Field sits on. Well, there will be nothing the taxpayers can do about it. Nada. We didn’t separate ourselves from the servers. Why didn’t we? Yes, $ and more $. After all, this is Montclair. People who don’t have it want it and people who have it don’t want to give it away. Montclair just can’t give the property to the BoE. There has to be consideration. Compensation. Just like the JB’s lyrics on Doin’ It To Death, “you can have your chain link gates, just give me some bucks and I’ll be straight”

  9. I hear you, Frank, but Central Park is absolutely crucial for public use in crowded/concrete Manhattan. There are other major parks in that borough (Riverside, Washington Square, etc.), but nothing that near Central Park and nothing comparable. Whereas in Montclair there are of course major parks/green spaces such as Anderson, Edgemont, Glenfield, Nishuane, and Bonsal Preserve, among others.

    If there’s an elected Board of Education in Montclair, it will deal with issues a lot thornier than the land in and near Woodman Field. 🙂 🙁

  10. Someone might want to ask why the Township kept the Woodman land.

    OK. Less seriously.

    Essex County owns 7 parks in Montclair: Eagle Rock, Kips Ridge, Glenfield, Brookdale, Anderson, Mountainside (Presby), & Mills.

    The Township owns many parks – 26.
    Seven of these take up their own block: Graz, Porter, Crane, Edgemont Rd, Clairidge Ct, Sunset & Nassau Rd. Six more are much smaller, typically unsigned hiding in plain site, ‘Blink & you’ll Miss Them” parks, e.g. the 2 @ U Mtn Av on each side of the Mountain Train Station @ Laurel Pl.

    We even own one park in Glen Ridge (GW Field). Of course, Glen Ridge owns two parks in Montclair.

  11. Montclair’s grassy street “islands” are considered parks? Interesting.

    And Montclair owns George Washington Field in Glen Ridge? Surprising. Then again, my daughter played several Montclair vs. Montclair rec-softball games on that field a few years ago. It’s certainly VERY close to Montclair.

  12. Yes, the street islands are not only parks, but have their own tax block/lot number!

    And you’ll enjoy this…the Watchung Plaza area is served by 4 parks (not counting school property): Watchung Park (West of trestle), Park St Park (the little patch East of train station), Watchung Plaza (the flag pole park), and Watchung Plaza Park (fronts the tiny permit parking lot across street to North). And nary a fence keeping the public out from any of them. Anyway, these pocket parks seems to put a little more Neighborhood in our of Neighborhood Commercial Zone.

  13. Wow — four Watchung Plaza-area parks!!!

    Frank, I’m constantly impressed with your detailed knowledge of Montclair.

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