MontClairVoyant: The Midtown Deck and More Council Dreck

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

There’s plenty to say about the Township Council’s seeming attempt to become even MORE secretive, but can you first discuss the Midtown parking deck being finally in operation — nine months late. What’s a “soft opening”?

Sincerely,

Bea Hindschedule

That referred to free parking November 10-14, but I wondered if the deck’s concrete hadn’t hardened.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

A lot changed in the world during the delayed debut, from February to November 2022, of that deck off Glenridge Avenue. An example of that change?

Sincerely,

Through-the-Year Drear

If the deck had opened last winter, it would’ve been used by horse-and-buggies. Now it’s a place for motor vehicles, many with internal-combustion engines.


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Another example of change?

Sincerely,

Explore One More

Montclair’s seat of government is currently at 205 Claremont Avenue. In February 2022, the Township Council was still meeting in a prehistoric cave under Upper Mountain Avenue.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Okay, we get the point that nine months is a long time, as yet another Montclair project advanced at a snail’s pace. Why so slow? Fate? Poor oversight by the controversial, now-suspended township manager? Other reasons?

Sincerely,

Tic-Tac-Slow

I’m investigating whether a snail, after closing on a four-bedroom Montclair home in 1868, inched here from Park Slope to finally occupy that dwelling in 2022.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Last week, you were cautiously positive about the latest Lackawanna Plaza plan, saying one five-story and four six-story buildings might not be too bad for that part of downtown. Now?

Sincerely,

Less Love at First Height

I’ve rethought that after a commenter under my November 10 column said those five proposed buildings would be quite tall at 75 to 87 feet. High ceilings, I guess, which explains why Michelangelo checked into Mountainside Hospital last night with vertigo.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

How could that Sistine Chapel artist paint Lackawanna ceilings that haven’t been built yet?

Sincerely,

No Place Like Rome

With a paint brush purchased at Watchung Plaza’s Italian Royal Hardware.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

AMERICAN Royal Hardware. So, for size and traffic reasons, I assume you think four stories would be better?

Sincerely,

Not Floored By That

Yes — with the stories being “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, “The Last Leaf” by O. Henry, “The Swimmer” by John Cheever, and “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

What about “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid,” “A Jury of Her Peers” by Susan Glaspell, “The Overcoat” by Nikolai Gogol, “Proof Positive” by Graham Greene, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor, and “Bartleby, the Scrivener” by Herman Melville?

Sincerely,

The Tale Prerogative

Now we’re talking 10 stories, which is unacceptable for any building on or near Bloomfield Avenue.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

But would the Lackawanna developer agree to a four-story limit? Would Montclair officials push for that? Why didn’t you mention an Edgar Allan Poe story?

Sincerely,

William Wilson

Okay, “The Tell-Tale Site Plan.”


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

As the Lackawanna redo and a second probe into the township manager’s alleged hostile behavior toward women play out, are you reminded how troubling it is that the Township Council doesn’t allow remote public comment and doesn’t stream/televise conference meetings?

Sincerely,

It’s Apparent: Not Too Transparent

Plus response to Open Public Records Act requests is glacial and the Council is VERY late in releasing meeting minutes. It doesn’t even use carrier pigeons to get the word out — which bothers the winged protagonists in Daphne du Maurier’s story “The Birds.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Then, for 2023, the Council has been planning fewer meetings — and to hold conference meetings in an upstairs room much smaller than Council Chambers, meaning less space for spectators. Not good?

Sincerely,

Cramping Is Ramping Up

Not good. Given this contempt for the public, the mayor and some other councilors might receive many fewer than zero votes in 2024, which doesn’t seem statistically possible but math is different from when I was in school.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

IF the mayor and some other councilors run for reelection. And the push for an earlier meeting start (6 p.m.) would make it harder for some residents to attend because they’d just be getting home from work and have no time to eat dinner. Thoughts?

Sincerely,

Public Be Darned

The Council’s implied “let them eat cake” attitude means dessert might be served in the upstairs conference room, albeit in tiny portions given the space limitations.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

And tonight, November 17, is an important Friends of the Howe House event at Montclair Brewery to raise money to buy and preserve (for historical and education purposes) the 1780-built Claremont Avenue home owned by freed slave James Howe starting in 1831. Comment?

Sincerely,

Mae Jerlandmark

Fortunately the “nutty” naming of east-west streets Chestnut and Walnut didn’t extend southward to change Claremont to Clarenut, though things at 205 Claremont have left many residents “shell”-shocked.

 

 

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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15 COMMENTS

  1. “…but math is different from when I was in school.”

    Since you Brough it up, did you glance at the presentation to the BoE on the NJSLA testing results to the BoE? The math scores? Pretty horrible.

    Take out or keep the COVID factor, two things remain unchanged. Proficiency continues to decline across socio-economic groups as students advance from elementary, to middle to MHS; and the overall proficiency level is just abysmally low. I have data going back to 2015 which means the district has data at least as far back. The presentations focus on the pre-COVID year to this year doesn’t tell the story. I particularly like they setup after-school tutoring with Federal $, but didn’t include transportation afterwards.

    We gave all students laptops. Maybe we should just install math apps with Alexa/Siri and they can ask for the answers & skip the classroom instruction.

  2. As to the question of heights allowed for Lackawanna, note the Midtown Parking Deck is 4 stories (with no step-backs). Lackawanna plan for Glenridge, above Grove, is a 25′ step-back starting above the 5th story. Which means the buildings, compared to the deck which we can see now, will be similar in massing from the sidewalk. Obviously, the Lackawanna buildings will be lined with retail businesses vs the blank walls of the deck. Not advocating, just offering a visual work-around for the unmet requests I have heard for 3D renderings.

  3. Thank you for the comments, Frank. I’ll reply to your first one here and the second one in a few minutes.

    I mistrust Pearson’s NJSLAs (formerly Pearson’s PARCCs), so I don’t have much faith in the relevance of that company’s math-test results. Of course, as you mentioned, the peak COVID era unfortunately “did a number” on the math skills of some students, but I wonder if a higher percentage of students do well on “homegrown” tests created and given by Montclair’s talented teachers — who know their classrooms and are on “the front line” of education — than do well on problematic standardized tests created by a politically connected for-profit company with the perverse financial incentive to potentially sell school districts more “learning” materials the worse students do on its tests.

  4. Re Lackawanna, Frank, yes, the topography of the site potentially lends itself to slightly higher structures than those that are up the hill west of the site — and the step-backs would help, too. Still, the proposed buildings in the developer’s Lackawanna plan seem unusually tall for five- and six-story structures (apparently due to high ceilings), so four stories would be preferable. And, yes again, as you alluded to, it would be nice to see what the buildings would potentially look like. I couldn’t find any images of that in the 115-page plan, even as there were plenty of existing buildings pictured.

  5. We have different views on standardized testing, but the views that count are the district and the BoE’s. Maybe they are only taking it seriously because it involves the flow of taxpayer and State funding?

    However, to your POV, maybe we don’t have an achievement problem and maybe we don’t have an achievement gap problem. Maybe the tests are, in effect biased, to create them? It is interesting that Black and Multi-Race student scores either dropped the least or actually improved during COVID.

    Of course, I have heard the teachers in the classrooms are the best judges of achievement so they would see & know in real time which students are not meeting standards. I assume they would take this to their principals to issue corrective action in real time…and before they graduate them to the next grade.

    But, the thing I can’t get around is the ongoing 8-year problem with scores consistently declining as they advance from elemntary, through middle, and into high school. It is almost like we are de-preparing them for life after primary education. Or does Pearson create the tests with an inherent bias toward older students?

    Thankfully, the ELA-side of the business is doing much better.

  6. Yes, the elevation topography under the deck and Seymour buildings is 25′ and 50′ higher respectively.

  7. Thank you for the responses, Frank. You make some good points. Montclair, like many other school districts, does have an achievement gap; I just don’t think problematic standardized tests are the solution. Part of the solution is macro — fixing the socioeconomic inequities in this country, which probably won’t happen until hell freezes over. πŸ™ Part of the solution is micro; as you allude to, many teachers try to help students in various ways when students are having academic challenges. But micro can only do so much when the macro is rampant.

  8. Dave,

    Only 2 out of 3 White students in MHS, both pre-COVID and post-COVID do not meet minimum math proficiency standards.

    3 out of 4 MHS students overall, pre-COVID failed to meet minimum math proficiency. Post-COVID, it dropped to 4 out of 5.

  9. Frank, I’m sure many Montclair High students do better on good, appropriately challenging, created-by-their-teachers math tests than on standardized math tests.

  10. Dave, I’d include “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters” on your list of short stories. Would Salinger’s carpenters have added an additional floor with materials purchased at American Royal Hardware? The price of “Glass” and steel have become become prohibitive through inflation.

  11. Dave,
    I’m sure you’re right. My only concern is the last time the MEA created custom tests they were posted to the internet.

  12. Thank you, silverleaf! I haven’t read “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters,” but I enjoyed your mention of it (including your reference to Salinger’s Glass family πŸ™‚ ) and your relating of it to Montclair — where of course the late Yogi Berra was “The Catcher in the Wry.”

  13. Frank, the Internet? I learned long ago that the “www” in URLs didn’t stand for Walnut Watchung Wildwood. Eventually got over the disappointment…

  14. Lol Dave. Yogi, “The Catcher in the Wry on Highland.”

    I’m all for the smart and responsible redevelopment Lackawanna Plaza. The plan as it exists today calls for five separate buildings ranging between 5 and 6 stories in height. I find that acceptable had pleased to learn nothing approaching “Nine Stories” high.

  15. True, silverleaf, that five or six stories is better than “Nine Stories,” even if all nine were “constructed” by J.D. Salinger. πŸ™‚ Still, the five- and six-story buildings proposed for the Lackawanna site are the equivalent of taller structures given the ceiling heights. Rather clever of the developer, though not quite as clever as the endings of “The Gift of the Magi” or “The Necklace” stories. πŸ™‚

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