With Only One Of Three Pools Open, Montclair Councilor Cites Poor Planning (UPDATED)

This Montclair pool should be open, but it’s not.

UPDATE: Per the Township Manager, anyone who purchased a Montclair pool season pass and will not use Mountainside, can go to the Recreation Dept. and request a refund, says Councilor at Large Peter Yacobellis.

“After hearing from staff, I’m confident that it’s highly unlikely that Nishuane and Essex Pools will open at all this summer. Residents should plan accordingly and I’m sorry that we didn’t tell you that until now,” adds Yacobellis.

Montclair knew it would start the summer with only one pool, Mountainside, opening on time, but there was hope that by now, families would be splashing around at Montclair’s other two municipal pools, Essex and Nishuane.

Back in early May the Township’s Recreation Department said of the 2022 Pool Season:


Due to the scope of construction at Essex and Nishuane Parks, Mountainside Pool will open on Saturday, May 28, 2022 and operate on weekends until June 28, 2022. Pool hours will be 11am to 8pm. On June 29, 2022, we anticipate to open Nishuane and Essex Pools depending on the completion of the construction surrounding the pool areas. We will be providing updated information about the construction work.

Nishuane and Essex Pools did not open as anticipated on June 29, and it’s looking like an even longer, hotter summer for families who rely on their neighborhood pools to cool off, kick back (and maybe even see a duck swimming). Why can’t Montclair get a better handle on its pools? (longtime readers will remember a late pool opening in 2010, but that time it was budget cuts, not construction delays.)

According to Township Communications Director Katya Wowk, every effort will be made to open Nishuane Pool as soon as possible after completion of major construction items related to the project and when the area is deemed safe.
Construction at Nishuane Park began shortly after authorization to proceed was issued on May 5, 2022. Major construction items at Nishuane Park are expected to be completed within the next 4-6 weeks, weather permitting and barring unforeseen circumstances.

The reason for the construction halt, says Wowk, was due to the contractor experiencing construction, material and staffing issues as the result of the pandemic.

The pools must be closed during construction because it is unsafe to allow pedestrian activity, especially activities that may involve children, to be conducted near an active construction site.

Meanwhile, Essex Park construction won’t start until after Nishuane Park is completed, but getting the Essex Pool to open in the meantime isn’t an option, says Wowk, given that opening a municipal pool for public use requires a lot of preparation to meet NJ Department of Health standards and secure approval by the local health authority.

There is no transportation being offered to Mountainside Pool, but Mountainside Pool hours are being extended. In the past, the pools were open from 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 12:00 to 8:00 p.m. on weekends and holidays. This year the pools are open from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily. To date, Mountainside Pool has not been at full capacity at any time, adds Wowk.

On Wednesday, Councilor at Large Peter Yacobellis stated that it was not OK for the town to charge families full price with two out of three pools out of commission.

“When I voted to authorize these projects; I certainly didn’t know we would find ourselves without someone in a central role of planning, forecasting and communicating with the whole community — basic expectation setting, again,” said Yacobellis. “The same happened with the Midtown parking deck and last year with our parking meters. One unforced error after another, when we have enough actual problems. Clearly I need to ask more pointed questions and the Mayor and Council has to do more to hold staff accountable. This town deserves better than constant excuses for what ultimately is poor planning and even poorer communication. I’m certainly not excusing any of it.”

Yacobellis added that the pandemic supply chain issues are not new and if the pools/parks could not be completed in time for summer, then they should have been started after summer.

For tweens, teens and families who would normally walk to the closest pool rather than drive, the quickest way to get to Mountainside would be the train.

Families who live near the Bay Street, Walnut, Watchung or Upper Montclair train stations could take the train to Mountain Avenue stop for a short walk to Mountainside Pool.

Families who live near Nishuane Park would need to take two buses to reach the Mountainside – the #34 and then #28 and then walk for an almost hour long trip to the pool. From Essex Pool to Mountainside is a 21 minute trip on the #28. A bus to train would cut the time down, too.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. Councilor Yacobellis needs to take a chill pill. Of all the 7 Council members, he needs to focus on the details. Not his strength / never will be. But certainly no excuse not to try a little harder. Really, just a little harder.

    Meanwhile, don’t anyone even think of calling in your public comments to this Council’s public meetings. They don’t want to hear from us. They expect you to ‘get off your xxxx’ (sorry, insert ‘out of your chair’) and come down in person to their meeting so they can ignore you… to your face… for 3 minutes.

    Nothing like screwing over your constituents and then taking your phone off the hook. I’m glad he bought up the parking meter issue. There is a problem there, but no point bringing it up during the Summer when everyone who is anyone is Out of The Office.

  2. The good news for Essex Park patrons is the park will get all-inclusive water fountains that serve humans and leashed dogs (& cats?). It will also get Montclair’s first water refilling station.

    What I don’t understand is the former Council was rightly credited (Baskerville) with doing all the work and had it bid-ready in 2020. Yet, the RFQ plans were only available in January & bids were opened Feb 9th. This Council did not approve the low bid until 30 days later at its March 15th mtg. The Council’s Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee had already signed off – with Councilor Yacobellis’ involvement – on the project details & timing. Credit to the Councilor, he did reconfirm 3/15 the work at Essex would not affect that pool’s opening…which is now not the case.

  3. Couldn’t agree with you more about that chill pill Frank. He’s ridiculous. Always trying to make himself look good. You’d think he has aspirations to be Mayor someday or something. Lol. And so many are snowed by him. I’m not. I’ve seen the flip-flops. I’ve seen the throwing others under the bus. It’s getting old.

    Anyway. Fact is – I firmly believe they never intended to open either of the other pools. Just ask if they even have the staff for it. They don’t. SOOOOO- all along they knew and only got caught by residents paying attention. Pretty sad for the tax dollars we pay in this town.

  4. Maybe The Township could provide a shuttle van from the closed pools to Mountainside. But I wouldn’t count on it. We used to have a convenient Senior Bus, but now they would rather pay for individual Uber bills.

  5. A question to put to the listening public and this Council during their only July mtg… if I could call it in. But, we can’t do that, can we?

    [Depending on which Council member you listen to, they say it is because of the cost, the technology, the law or they first want to see the return of wood-paneled station wagons. Yes, lame ‘My dog ate my homework’ stuff.]

    OK, getting to the question:
    Our MC Hotel, birthed from the Council’s Gateway 1 Redevelopment Plan, is now paying the taxpayers back the money they owe. The in-lieu-of property taxes realized this year totals just over $2 million dollars. Along with their other obligations, it will come to a total of $3 million into our coffers.

    Note: this next part is where the special interest parties need to pay attention.

    The Township didn’t budget any of this revenue. It legally can’t guesstimate anticipated revenues.

    And yes, we have this situation in part because we think our Triple A bond rating qualifies us to run the black diamond trails of redevelopment. Sorry, another tangent.

    Back on budgetary point, this is additional, unencumbered revenue with 80% deposited in the General Fund checking account. We can use this windfall anyway we want. Well, not on the MPL until they complete their 2021 audit. But aging seniors, this might be your moment for a center. Highland Av residents – a new roadway? Pay down debt? Another sign-on bonus to Glen Ridge to pick us for fire service? Or put it towards an installment for the new municipal complex?

    So many possibilities. Just know you if you want to advocate for your choice, you have to go to the Council mtg to have your say in person. So American to require your accusers to come face to face. (yeah, that is the argument by the Planning Board on their not allowing remote comments & questions by the general public. Seriously! So sorry, another tangent).

    Just so you know, there is no COVID. It’s done. Over. I wear one because it obscures a very prominent, double chin.

  6. “Meanwhile, don’t anyone even think of calling in your public comments to this Council’s public meetings. They don’t want to hear from us. They expect you to ‘get off your xxxx’ (sorry, insert ‘out of your chair’) and come down in person to their meeting so they can ignore you… to your face… for 3 minutes”.

    Somebody need to school me big time! I seen so much crazy by past & present civil servants all around. Nishuane, has not been a park in years. I do mean that literally.

  7. “We used to have a convenient Senior Bus, but now they would rather pay for individual Uber bills”.

    In reference to the Senior bus. I was shocked to learn the Senior bus had a few designated stops. It should be door-to-door (includes Senior housing) pick-up & drop-off. Another sign of civil servant dysfunction.

    How many years have Seniors called on a center? Probably since the YWCA was taken over ions ago. Change can be good; but, not this type of change where long time residents are being pushed out or are fed up with the civil servants never ending shenanigans.

  8. As far as I know, Montclair does not participate (and has not) in the civil service system. Maybe you mean to blame the shenanigans on our union employees? Or, those elected to our Council?

  9. You were not mean.

    What is dysfunctional is holding a quarterly 1st Ward Community meeting from 7:30-9:00pm, at our library’s Bellevue Branch, which can not accommodate people with disabilities, to gain the public’s input in how to improve the Senior Bus service, and to float suggestions and ask for a show of hands if attendees feel they have merit. 3 guesses what the feedback was.

    I will guess moves like these made the former SCAC stop advising the Council and start advocating directly to the public. That said, there were so many thing wrong with the Senior Bus Service that, at the very least, we would need to start from scratch and with new leadership…if we want to do this. Personally, I don’t think we should go forward with the service.

  10. I found out about 20 years ago, when I inquired for my parent at PRCA. I seen the Senior bus designated map. How in the world do they expect older people & like you typed, with disabilities to carry 1 to 3 bags. You have to be seriously dense/just plain hateful.

    It is 100% wrong to expect people to trek to the Bellevue Avenue library at the time they scheduled. Anyone able to attend, must listen to be dictated to. I do agree with again. They will blatantly ignore the taxpayers who I think is still paying for all their perks.

  11. Good. You have been around here in suburbia long enough to know the social compact: you’re valuable as long as you’re making families and maximizing earnings. After that, you scramble to make yourself relevant by trading in time…yours. But, on a township level, that value has an expiration date…and not in one’s control. If you also have a disability, the social scale of give & take is even harder to balance. That is American suburbia. If you can find a free, convenient ride to our main library to pass the morning, consider it a good day.

Comments are closed.