Montclair Affordable Housing Forum Offers Help to Residents

BY  |  Monday, Apr 17, 2017 9:00am  |  COMMENTS (8)

Steven Cooper, Renee Baskerville, Deirdre Malloy and William Scott (L – R).

Al Pelham of the Montclair Branch of the NAACP and Chris Napierala of the Montclair Justice Coalition hosted a Community Forum on Affordable Housing for local residents on April 11 at the Wally Choice Community Center in Glenfield Park.

The forum was sponsored by the Justice Coalition and featured a four-person panel comprising 4th Ward Councilwoman Renee Baskerville, MD; Steven Cooper, Senior Mortgage Banker at Alterra Home Loans in Jersey City; Deirdre Malloy, Property Compliance Manager at HomeCorp; and William Scott, Chair of the Montclair NAACP Housing Committee and Co-Chair of the Montclair Housing Commission.

Councilwoman Baskerville began her comments by discussing the Mt. Laurel decision regarding affordable housing, and saying that Montclair had gone “above and beyond” in their efforts to provide affordable housing. However, she pointed out that with new housing coming into Montclair with rents from $2000-$4000, there is concern about how this will affect people who have historically lived in the township’s low and moderate-income neighborhoods.

She also discussed gentrification, saying that it’s “not necessarily an all-bad thing,” as it sometimes serves a need for economic stimulus.  “Some people feel some types of gentrification can be a positive thing. But people who’ve been in Montclair for decades, and whose families have shaped the township and given their all for generations, they may not be able to afford to live in their neighborhoods.” She questioned whether this trend would “push black and brown people out of their community.” Continue Reading

Montclair History: The Darden Sisters, Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine

BY  |  Friday, Apr 14, 2017 2:45pm  |  COMMENTS (0)

The Darden House montclair

The Darden sisters, Norma Jean and Carol Darden Lloyd, currently living in Manhattan, have immortalized their magnificent Montclair home and family history in a 1978 book now reaching its fifth edition, Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine.

Their parents, Dr. Walter Darden and his wife Mamie Jean, had acquired their Montclair property at 266 Orange Road in 1946. The house employed a butler, a maid and a gardener. Dr. Darden built the garden apartment complex behind their home as a business venture.

The Darden House montclair

Dr. Darden, was born in Wilson, N.C. He was an alumnus of Livingstone College in Salisbury, N.C., and of the Howard University Medical School in Washington. He moved to Newark to join a colleague and stayed on in private practice. He was one of the first black men to be a guest in the audience of the then-segregated Cotton Club of Harlem where he acted as physician.

Among his patients, friends and Montclair houseguests were Sara Vaughn, Lena Horne, Billy Eckstein, the Duke Ellington band, as well as Sammy Davis Junior. From the sports world, Larry Doby, Jackie Robinson, Monte Irving and the Newark Eagles baseball team that meet frequently at the Darden house. The Dardens with Harold Shot and Congressman Peter Rodino did fundraising and organizing for the Montclair chapter of the NAACP. The Dardens were also affiliates of education pioneer Mary McCleod Bethune and hosted her often in their home in Montclair.

Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine intends to be a historical family cookbook, but it is of even greater value as it presents an exceptional social history. Norma Jean and Carole Darden also have two restaurants in Harlem – Miss Mamie’s at 366 W. 110th St., named after her mother, and Mrs. Maude’s at 547 Lenox Ave., named after her aunt.

The Darden House montclair

Both graduates of Sarah Lawrence, Carole was a social worker, Norma, a Wilhemina model before they wrote the 1979 cookbook that launched them into the celebrity food world.

The recipes and family stories in Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine came from their Southern roots: corn pone, spareribs, peach cobbler, banana pudding. Their grandfather, Charles Darden born before the time of the Emancipation Proclamation, was a great inspiration also. Papa Darden, a former slave that became an undertaker was quite known for his recipes for fruit based wines and pine needle beers.

A request to cook for a Channel Thirteen event led to the birth of the Darden Sister’s catering company. Catering has its own challenges they say, like one time they packed up Norma Jean’s Porsche in front of their home on Orange Road before doing a catering gig and the huge quantity of coleslaw began to create a big white puddle under the car. Another time, an order of fried chicken fell out of the back door of the delivery van and was stolen by onlookers waiting at a bus stop. Norma had to buy more chicken and two fryers and then find a hiding place where she could prepare it on the fly at the event. Years later, when a space opened next to the catering kitchen, it seemed natural to open a small restaurant.

When the cookbook came out, despite its glorious history, the Hahnes Department Store in Montclair declined to sell the book. In an interview on the Martha Stewart Show, where Norma Jean was presenting her story, she said that she had learned many recipes from her father. Stewart smiled and asked, “Oh, your father was a cook?” Norma Jean smiled back at Stewart who had apparently not read the book and replied, “No my father was a medical doctor.” The audience giggled.

The Darden House montclair


Today, the Darden House is the lovingly preserved home of Senator Nia Gill, Thurston Briscoe, and Bradley Gill.

Montclair Third Ward Community Meeting: Lackawanna Development, Taxes, Law Enforcement

BY  |  Wednesday, Apr 12, 2017 9:01am  |  COMMENTS (1)

Montclair Third Ward Councilor Sean Spiller at his April 2017 community meeting

Montclair Third Ward Councilor Sean Spiller held his annual spring community meeting at the Montclair Inn, as he has done in the past.  And as at his previous spring community meetings, his April 11 event was dominated by development and law enforcement issues, as well as taxes.

Councilor Spiller had the township’s architectural consultant, Ira Smith, speak before the assembled constituents about the Seymour Street and Lackawanna Plaza projects.  Smith said his role was to ensure the architecture of the new developments was aesthetically pleasing and would not repeat the mistakes of the Valley & Bloom apartment complex.  He said the Historic Preservation Commission liked the designs for the Seymour Street projects but balked at sketches of the proposed plaza that would be developed in front of the Wellmont Theater’s entrance.  He told the audience the planning board was due to consider the civil engineering aspects of the project at its April 24 meeting and revisit the plaza two weeks after that.  The façade of the new building facing Seymour Street across from the Wellmont would be 65 feet from the existing theater, ensuring ample room for the plaza, and Smith added that measurements have been taken to ensure any renderings of the new buildings are faithful to the project. Continue Reading

Montclair Councilwoman Baskerville to Take Part in Affordable Housing Forum

BY  |  Sunday, Apr 09, 2017 10:00am  |  COMMENTS (9)

Councilwoman BaskervilleMontclair Fourth Ward Councilwoman Renee Baskerville will take part in an affordable housing forum to be held by the Montclair Justice Coalition on Tuesday, April 11, between 7 – 9 pm, at the Wally Choice Community Center (49 Maple Avenue, Glenfield Park).

The discussion will center on issues of affordable housing in Montclair, the impact of new development and financial assistance for residents and municipal employees.

Baskerville will be joined by William Scott, Chair of the Montclair NAACP Housing Committee and Co-Chair of the Montclair Housing Commission.

The Montclair Justice Coalition is a community organization founded in October 2016 to bring together the full diversity of residents to work towards a hometown that benefits all of its residents. Coalition founding members are: Shae Cali, Greater Newark Conservancy Re-Entry Program; Albert Pelham, Montclair NAACP & Montclair Neighborhood Development Corporation; Chris Napierala, Seed Artists; and Joseph Davis, Brother to Brother.


Montclair Fire Department Unveils New Ladder Truck

BY  |  Saturday, Apr 08, 2017 10:00am  |  COMMENTS (0)

montclair fire department

Fire Dept. ladder truck design team, L-R: Lt. Dave Hill, Firefighter Tim McLoughlin, Lt. Dan Ernst, Capt. Joe Bates

The Montclair Fire Department unveiled a new firefighting apparatus addition to its fleet – a Pierce Arrow XT 105’ Aerial Ladder Truck. The unveiling took place at a dedication ceremony held at Fire Station #2, 588 Valley Road. The truck features a 105’ heavy duty steel ladder with a pre-piped waterway, LED lighting, a variety of rescue equipment, power and hand tools.

“The new ladder truck shows Council’s commitment not only to the safety of Montclair and Glen Ridge citizens but also to our firefighters,” said Fire Chief John Herrmann. “It is a major investment in our public safety capabilities, allowing our personnel to respond quickly and safely to any incident.”

The truck represents a total capital cost of $847,000 and was purchased through the H-GAC Cooperative Lease Purchasing Program. It will be assigned to Fire Station #2.



Montclair Council: Dog Park/Mount Vernon Road Update, Glenridge Avenue Street Fair

BY  |  Wednesday, Apr 05, 2017 11:28am  |  COMMENTS (1)

The Montclair Township Council

About half of the Montclair Township Council’s hour-long conference meeting on April 4 was devoted to the ongoing effort to do something about people who use the canine facility in Brookdale Park just beyond the dead end of Mount Vernon Road and park on that street to access the dog park.

Montclair Police Lieutenant Stephanie Egnezzo explains solutions for Mount Vernon Road while Acting Township manager Tim Stafford listens. Deputy Police Chief Tracy Frazzano is in the background.

Lt. Egnezzo said police analyzed the situation after it was brought to the attention of the Traffic and Parking Advisory Committee (TPAC).  Although the police plan to do an extensive study in the spring months, they did conduct a study in February and came up with possible solutions.  The proposals they came up with were formulated after they talked to the fire department about safety issues.  Fire officials had their own concerns, given that Mount Vernon Road is 25.9 feet wide and parking on both sides could inconvenience emergency vehicles.   The TPAC has not yet weighed in.

For the time being, Lt. Egnezzo says, the solutions that the police are proposing that parking be prohibited at eastern dead ends of Mount Vernon Road and two parallel dead-end streets – Chester Road and Gordonhurst Avenue – and that parking also be prohibited on one side of each of the streets.  On Mount Vernon Road, parking on the south side would be prohibited.  Another suggestion was to prohibit parking on the north side 90.5 feet from the dead end because of the location of a fire hydrant, as that is where most people tend to park.

Mount Vernon Road, July 2013. Police Lt. Stephanie Egnezzo said that the police would recommend the elimination of parking on the south side of the street (left). Image courtesy of Google.

“At this point, it’s a public safety issue,” Lt. Egnezzo said.

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Montclair Crime: Several Burglaries, Stolen Car, Arrests

BY  |  Tuesday, Apr 04, 2017 3:45pm  |  COMMENTS (0)

Montclair Crime: Storm-Related Incidents, Theft, Attempted BurglaryThe week in Montclair Crime from D/Lt. David O’Dowd, Montclair Police Department:


03-29-2017 (Chase Bank, Bloomfield Avenue) Mr. Jair Sewell, 20yoa from East Orange and a 17yoa juvenile female were arrested and charged with Receiving Stolen property and Fraud charges after attempting to open a fraudulent bank account with stolen documents.

04-01-2017 (Elmwood Avenue) Mr. Todd Dorcelus, 31yoa from Newark, was arrested on an open warrant out of the Essex County Sheriff’s Office.

03-29-2017 (Bloomfield Avenue) Mr. Larry McNeil, 74yoa from West Orange, was arrested and charged with DWI.

03-30-2017 (Bay Street) Mr. Zahir Muhammad, 19yoa from Montclair, was arrested and charged with Defiant Trespass after breaking into a vacant residence.

04-03-2017 (Saint Luke’s Church, South Fullerton) Mr. Omar Williams, 38yoa from East Orange was arrested on multiple open warrants resulting from theft investigations in Montclair. On 04-03-2017, he was discovered inside the basement of St. Lukes Church and subsequently charged with Defiant Trespass and Possession of CDS paraphernalia. He was also arrested on an open warrant for his involvement in the theft of a tip jar from Studio Groomers on North Fullerton Avenue, reported on 03/30/2017. Williams was also arrested on an open warrant for his involvement in the theft of a laptop from the Salvation Army, Trinity Place, reported on 03-23-2017.


03-29-2017 (South Mountain Avenue) Burglary to a single family residence. Three laptop computers were taken from the first floor of the home. There were no signs of forced entry.

03-30-2017 (Forest Street) Theft of a red 2008 Volvo XC70 Station Wagon, which had been parked in the street.

03-30-2017 (Palace Car Wash, Bloomfield Avenue) Burglary to a commercial establishment. Cash was taken in this incident. There were no signs of forced entry.

04-03-2017 (Wayside Place) Attempted burglary to a residence. An attempt was made to enter the rear door of the home. Access was not gained in this incident.

04-03-2017 (St. James Episcopal Church, Valley Road) Burglary to the basement office space of the church. A laptop and cash were taken.

04-03-2017 (Nishuane Road) A suspect attempted to enter two vehicles which were parked in a residential driveway. Entry was not gained in this incident.


04-01-2017 (Clinton Avenue) A 17yoa female was walking on Clinton Avenue when she observed a newer model bright red 2-door sports car pull up to the curb. The driver, described as a Black male approximately 25-30 years old, 6’00-6’02 in height, 180lbs athletic build, with short black hair, clean shaven, wearing an all red track suit, exited the vehicle. He then opened the passenger side door of the vehicle and began adjusting the passenger side seat. As the female approached, he asked her if he could speak with her. The female replied that he could not, and continued walking. The male continued speaking to her as she walked away. He then entered his vehicle and left the area.



Montclair Planning Board: Lewis Court, Orange Road Parking Deck Façade

BY  |  Tuesday, Apr 04, 2017 11:30am  |  COMMENTS (33)

44 Pleasant Avenue, the one-time home of the late notable Montclair resident Aubrey Lewis. Image courtesy of Google.

The Montclair Planning Board, in its efforts to keep up with the flood of applications on its docket, settled in for another long meeting on April 3 – the first Monday of the month, held a week earlier than usual in deference to Passover – to discuss a continued application and a new application.  Ironically, the new one was approved while the continued one was left . . . to be continued.

The continued application concerned plans to demolish the house on Pleasant Avenue once owned by the late Aubrey Lewis,  a star athlete and one of the first black agents in the FBI.  The plan calls for a new dead-end street, or “court,” to be named for Lewis, with eight houses.  At the first hearing for the application on February 27, engineer Michael Lanzafama of the Millburn firm Casey & Keller presented a plan for the Lewis Court subdivision that required a significant variance.  On paper, the setback for the two proposed lots on the corners of Pleasant Avenue and Lewis Court was 25 feet, which was closer than any house on that side of the existing street; the requirement was 53 feet.  He also presented a conforming plan as an alternative at the February 27 meeting, and Planning Director Janice Talley told Baristanet she had to go through the alternative plan to make sure that it did conform.   Although it did conform, the developers came up with a third possible plan with one corner property that fully conforms, improving the plan.

The plot plan for Lewis Court in Montclair, on the site of Aubrey Lewis’s home.

The subdivision was not approved just yet, though, as the details for the houses on Lewis Court were still iffy.  Architect Larry Appel presented plans for the houses, showing how they would integrate into the neighborhood.  The houses, available as different models, would make use of architectural elements from existing houses on the block and employ features such as double hung windows and carriage-style garage windows.  At one point, board member Stephen Rooney suggested that Aubrey Lewis’s house, of 1906 vintage, be preserved as part of the development rather than demolished or moved.

Renderings of the proposed houses for the corner of Pleasant Avenue and Lewis Court.

When the corner lots were enlarged, however, the four lots at the end of the street were made narrower, making it difficult to employ side-entry garages.  The problem with front-entry garages, on the other hand, is that the houses would have to have such garages recessed farther toward the backyard.  Appel did have one novel idea – make the side elevations of the houses on the corners, which would face Pleasant Avenue, feature wraparound porches with side doors leading out to Pleasant Avenue, thus presenting side façades similar to the front ones that would face Lewis Court.  Board Chairman John Wynn said such an effect, which would blend with the existing houses on Pleasant Avenue, could be better achieved with a design similar to a house on Washington Avenue and Douglas Road that faces Washington Avenue, where the side elevation facing Douglas Road has French doors opening out to the porch, giving a sense of presence.  Chairman Wynn thought the details of the Lewis Court houses, especially the houses toward the read of the cul-de-sac, were still to sketchy and still needed to be fleshed out.  Lanzafama agreed to continue working out it, with a continuation of the hearing tentatively scheduled for April 24. Continue Reading

Council Spiller to Host Third Ward Community Meeting April 11

BY  |  Sunday, Apr 02, 2017 3:00pm  |  COMMENTS (0)

Sean SpillerThird Ward Councilor Sean Spiller will hold a community meeting on Tuesday, April 11, 7:30-9:00 p.m. at the Montclair Inn, 27 Hillside Avenue, Montclair. The meeting is open to everyone and will focus on current issues and concerns of the Montclair community.

For more information, contact Councilor Spiller at [email protected]





Montclair History: Minnie A. Lucey, A Mission of Care

BY  |  Friday, Mar 31, 2017 11:30am  |  COMMENTS (5)

Minnie A. LuceyMinnie A. Lucey, a pioneer social worker, dedicated her life to the education and acclimation of the Italian immigrants in the Pine Street Historic District of Montclair in the early 1900s.

In 1915, she was named director of the Home Department in the Baldwin Street School, and later the Baldwin Street Community House (later renamed the Minnie A. Lucey House)

After 1890, with the establishment of the first Montclair Water Company, there was the need to build a municipal infrastructure that would replace local well water with a modern, sanitary water and sewer system. A substantial wave of immigrants from several towns in Southern Italy: Aquilonia, Lacedonia, San Fele, Cerami — who had an expertise in fontaniere and fonaiole (plumbing)–arrived in Montclair to accomplish that task. These newcomers were considered foreigners and even the census at the time reflected this difference. Up until the 1940s, the Montclair census had three ethnic categories, Caucasian, Negro and Italian. The Italians settled in the Fourth Ward.

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