MontClairVoyant: Guns and Rent in This Column’s Tent

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

In the wake of the ghastly school massacre in Texas, Gov. Murphy announced there’ll be an increased police presence at New Jersey schools — presumably including those in Montclair. Helpful?

Sincerely,

More Blue in a Blue State

Probably not. A police presence can be uncomfortable for students of color and seldom stops massacres in a U.S. that has the most gun violence by far of any “developed” country. In this case, U.S. stands for Utterly Sick.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

What is needed instead? A federal ban on military-style assault weapons? Universal background checks on all would-be gun buyers?

Sincerely,

Among Other Things

Yes. Those measures are favored by most Americans but opposed by most supposedly “pro-life” Republican politicians, who seem to like firearms more than dessert. They need to visit one of Montclair’s ice-cream places.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Not sure I want them there. Why, when many teachers have been laid off in towns such as Montclair, is there often not enough money for those educators but almost always enough for more law enforcement?

Sincerely,

Problematic Priorities

Teachers would be lavishly funded if they changed their names to Greta Gunn or Billy Bulletz or Mary Munitions or…

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Not funny. In other news, there are reports that some landlords are raising rents by more than the amounts allowed by our town’s new rent-control law. Your reaction?

Sincerely,

Greed to Know Basis

I’m shocked. Stunned. Floored. Astonished. Dumbfounded. Thunderstruck. Flabbergasted. Words courtesy of a thesaurus I rented from a Montclair landlord for $3,000 a month.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Cute, but you use an online thesaurus and you’re not surprised by some landlords ignoring the rent-control law. Because…

Sincerely,

Thesaurus Wrecks

…some of them are greedy and Montclair has been slow to put mechanisms in place to enforce the new law. Local officials should’ve been ready to roll, but they didn’t even skateboard in Rand Park.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

When WILL those mechanisms be fully in place?

Sincerely,

Somewhere in Timeline

All I can say is visit YouTube and listen to the song “In the Year 2525.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Isn’t that a bit pessimistic?

Sincerely,

Sad Nauseam

Okay, Optimist Guy. Listen instead to the Rush album “2112.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Meanwhile, a May 23 email from the superintendent announced that 22 people at Montclair High tested positive for COVID. Might it be a good idea to require masks until the end of this school year?

Sincerely,

Systemic Pandemic

Yes. And I’m impressed that a “Catch-22” paperback was used as a nasal swab to catch 22 cases. Seems like a book would be too big to fit in a nose.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

A “novel” false take by you. The next day it was announced that 14 more people at Montclair High tested positive for COVID. At least you can’t make a book joke about that number!

Sincerely,

No Path to Math

Um…two “The House of the Seven Gables” swabs — one for each nostril?

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Your local column should focus on Montclair, not Hawthorne. In other news, a bid was accepted to build a twice-as-big replacement Wally Choice Community Center in Glenfield Park. Thoughts on the future one-story structure?

Sincerely,

A Staple on Maple

I would’ve preferred a two-story building with a smaller footprint, but overall I’m glad there’ll be more space. The “Star Trek: Voyager” crew felt differently when ending up in a distant quadrant.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

When would the new building and other Glenfield Park changes be finished?

Sincerely,

Front to the Future

The goal is one year from this month, but that sounds ambitious. More like sometime between May 2023 and the year 2525.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

What month in 2525?

Sincerely,

Zager and Evans

Do I need to be THAT specific? Okay, May 2525 — when the temperature might be 211 degrees because of climate change. I hope the new community center has good air-conditioning.

 

 

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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6 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Dave
    The housing issue in Montclair is a hot button issue that always generates a lot of interest and you have focused on rental housing as the barometer of the housing market. I would argue that its the “for sale” home ownership market here in town that is so way out of whack that its the real change agent here. We all know of houses that are selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars over the asking price. Hundreds of thousands! Cut throat bidding wars! Housing advocates (and clever columnists) have gone balistic when rents go up by 10%. Where is the outrage when the average cost of a home in Montclair goes up by 50% in a few years? Where are the calls for price controls? Limiting profits? Flip tax to support affordable housing? This home ownership phenomena has really changed the profile of Montclair, not rental housing. Apartment owners are easier targets for sure. In the end, its a matter of supply and demand. Market factors cannot be easily legislated. Those of you clamoring for fewer and smaller developments helping to fuel the price increases. A far more balanced approach to meeting the demand here in Montclair with proper densities, a wider range of housing options and sensible policies is the only way to bring the market into a closer balance. It still wont be easy and quick. But you can’t have it both ways — tightened supply and lower prices. Just doesnt work.

  2. Thank you for the comment, professor wagstaff. You make an excellent point. The sharply rising price of buying many single-family homes in Montclair is, along with rising rents, definitely a problem contributing to our town’s decreasing economic diversity. (A problem not just in Montclair, of course.)

    Regulating what an individual or couple charges to sell their home seems impossible or nearly impossible, but rent control does seem possible. Unfortunately, one has to be affluent to buy most Montclair homes yet it’s still possible in some instances for non-affluent people to rent in Montclair. Meaning rentals are sort of the last line of defense in terms of keeping a decent amount of economic diversity in town. (In addition to the also-modest-income Montclair homeowners who bought when prices were much lower and then perhaps eventually paid off their mortgages so that they can now still afford to stay in town — albeit barely in a number of cases.)

  3. I am fascinated by discussion of this topic.

    professor wagstaff,
    Clarification please: How are you defining the balanced market in your 4th to last sentence? For example, what is the proper density you cite for, say, Cedar Av? I believe we have a wide range of housing options (including carriage houses and accessory dwelling units). Which the are we sufficiently lacking?

    I think you may be on to something, but I just want to make sure I’m tracking your thinking.

  4. Thanks for both of your comments. First, as a general comment. If we are going to address the affordability crisis and the “skewing” demographics in Montclair, we have to look holistically and realistically. Things are changing and the old saying that you cant step into the same river twice applies to Montclair (and for that matter everywhere). Nostalgia isnt helpful. It wasnt nearly as great as we would like to think.
    In the new reality, we have lots of smaller households — younger folks and long term residents. Promoting appropriate housing gets or keeps them here. And these groups dont burden the school enrollment (dont believe that BS for a minute — our enrollment is dropping even though we have more households — its part of the NIMBY Big Lie). Sorry, Dave but it may mean more density but you are now in a place “where the suburb meets the city”. Embrace the density — we can handle it and this is not a rural village. Allow greater unit height in exchange for more affordable units. For sale housing wont help low income folks but could be a great fit for work force units with resale restrictions. Townhouse units on municipally owned sites would be fine with me. Allow Accessory units under a formula that makes economic sense and is workable. More ideas to follow. lets keep this discussion going

  5. Thank you, professor wagstaff, for the follow-up comment. Very well said.

    There’s part of me that sees the benefit of more density in Montclair — as long as the vast majority of new units were affordable. But I just can’t see that being done by the crop of major developers Montclair is currently stuck with. Most of them want big units, “luxury” units, pricey units. Attempts to incentivize them with a trade-off like taller buildings would only go so far; developers might “give” a little with a token number of additional affordable units but would mostly try to turn the extra height into more units for the affluent and even more profit. If more town officials had more backbone when dealing with developers, that might help. Haven’t seen enough of that so far.

  6. Ok, now I am tracking your thinking. Thank you.

    If diversity can only be achieved through growth of housing units and there is only so much we can add to the 3rd & 4th wards (were we have the most diversity), then we have to look towards The Hill. It is sitting there right in front of us. The trophy lots in our R-0 Mountain zone. We need this land to grow…to maintain our diversity.

    We don’t have the tools to keep building higher and higher. The buildings get uglier and, worst of all, more visible. We can’t hide them with shrubs, trees and setbacks. No, we need to exploit the land. Exploiting height (the air) should come later.

    Three quick fixes is to replace the R-0 zoning that allows a much greater housing density, allow higher utilization of front yards (e.g. parking & garage space), and rescind the demolition ordinance. It would advance equity within the property class, offer a steady source of market-driven development, and better align our land use priorities with our urban destiny.

    Next, we will have to transform historic preservation protections & policy from a stick approach to a carrot one that is focused on education. The Council can fund, using PILOT revenues (not the MC Hotel’s, of course) the BOE to use their excess teachers and paras to educate us.

    There are so many unrealized synergies to build the New Montclair.

    “We can rebuild Montclair. We have the technology. We have the capability. Better than before. Better…stronger…faster.” But, there is inflation, so it will cost more than Six Million Dollars.

Comments are closed.