BY Steven Maginnis | Thursday, Feb 23, 2017 8:37am
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An artist’s rendering of the northern end of the proposed Seymour Street plaza, with the Wellmont Theatre marquee on the right.
The Montclair Planning Board held a rare Wednesday night meeting on February 22 to begin the application for new construction and a new pedestrian plaza in the Seymour Street redevelopment area with the purpose of creating an arts district. The project consists of two buildings on either side of Seymour Street, one a six-story mixed-use structure with two levels of parking. The application, spearheaded by Brookfield Property Partners and Montclair developer Brian Stolar, did not include any testimony on the architecture of the proposed buildings. Attorney Thomas Trautner, representing the applicants, explained that the details of the architectural design had to be ironed out in a session with the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) at its regular meeting on February 23. However, the first application hearing did include artistic renderings of what the final product might look like for the benefit of the board members and Montclair residents in attendance. Continue Reading
BY Steven Maginnis | Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017 7:44am
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The Montclair Township Council went through another go-around of vocal support from residents at its February 21 meeting in favor of a township resolution declaring Montclair as a sanctuary city. The resolution Mayor Robert Jackson and the councilors considered and narrowly passed, though, did not use those terms, saying instead that Montclair would continue to commit to equal treatment of all people and to remain an open and welcoming community.
A resident shows support for a resolution welcoming immigrants to Montclair.
BY Steven Maginnis | Thursday, Feb 09, 2017 7:49am
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The Montclair Board of Education discussed budget woes, videotaping of student teachers and a new interim superintendent to take over for current interim superintendent Ron Bolandi at its February 8 workshop meeting. The principal topic of the night, however, was reforming world language instruction. World-language consultant Jessica LaSusa explained her recommendations before the board and members of the public.
The Montclair Board of Education
LaSusa began by saying it was important for students to learn other languages to start with one language in kindergarten and stay with it through the end of middle school in order to reach what she called “novice-high” level ahead of continuing it in high school. She said that it takes up to 540 hours of pre-high-school instruction to reach that level, but the elementary schools and the middle schools they correspond to reach only 290 to 300 hours at best, the exception being the Nishuane-Hillside-Glenfield continuum with 492 hours. She advocated increased teacher training and development for the 2017-18 school year, with students and their families committed to staying with a single language and keeping languages consistent at the middle school level. LaSusa found Mandarin, Spanish and French to be in the most widely taught languages at the high school level in Montclair, while languages such as German, Italian and Latin tended to draw fewer students. (Watchung
Middle Elementary School was omitted; LaSusa said this was her mistake.)
A breakdown of hours in world-language instruction in Montclair’s elementary and middle schools (Watching School was inadvertently excluded)
LaSusa said that ongoing professional development and a study of past data was important to improve language studies for the 2018-19 school year, and that class sections in one or two of the lesser languages could be eliminated to streamline the process and save money for critical-needs languages like Arabic and Hindi. By the 2019-20 school year, benchmarks should be thoroughly implemented. She said that there had to be a commitment from students and teachers alike.
Board member Joseph Kavesh asked if either Russian or Japanese could be considered critical-use languages instead, given their use in business instead. LaSusa said that the choice of such languages was up to the board. Board member Laura Hertzog expressed concern that three of the elementary-middle school streams were far behind Nishuane-Hillside-Glenfield. She asked if that should be changed and if ninth graders should be given placement tests to gauge how far along they are with world languages. Continue Reading
BY Steven Maginnis | Wednesday, Feb 08, 2017 7:39am
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A proposal to make Montclair a sanctuary city for immigrants was not on the Montclair Township council’s agenda for its February 7 meeting, but supporters of the initiative came out in droves, to make sure their voices heard on the issue. Though the meeting was a conference meeting, not a regularly televised one, Mayor Robert Jackson and the council held the meeting in the council chambers in anticipation of the overflow of residents they expected. Even that wasn’t enough.
A protester at the Montclair Township Council’s February 7 holds up a sign asking the council to keep the township “on the right side of history.”
One resident after another got up to voice support for Montclair becoming a sanctuary city, a municipality that has adopted a policy of protecting unauthorized immigrants. President Donald Trump’s executive order barring citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries has sparked similar calls for such a status in various municipalities, which the White House has threatened to withhold federal funds from. Continue Reading
BY Steven Maginnis | Tuesday, Feb 07, 2017 9:15am
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The Montclair Planning Board spent most of its February 6 meeting on the continuing application from Caldwell developer Michael Pavel to expand his reconstruction of the Warner Building on Lorraine Avenue to run 137 feet behind the avenue, with 8,971 square feet of second-floor office space and ground-level parking at the ground-floor level.
Architect Frederick Kincaid of the Livingston firm Jarmel Kizel offered a revised version of the design with input from the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC), but the plan met with skepticism and resistance from board members and residents alike. Board chairman John Wynn ultimately had to schedule a continuation of the meeting when there was only time for Kincaid’s testimony on the building’s design. Further testimony on the project will continue on March 13.
A diagram of the proposed extension of the Warner Building on Lorraine Avenue, from the west side
Kincaid said he lowered the height of the building’s cornice and tried to break up its bulk by dividing the western façade into sections, using different colors of brick and recessing some of the sections to avoid a monolithic outer wall. He presented a corbelling, or overlapping, arrangement on one section to bring the bricks farther out to add to the variety of the façade. Roof-mounted equipment would be hidden with fiberglass barriers that would mitigate sound coming from the equipment and would match the color of the parapets on the building. A bulkhead for the elevator would have a color matching the cornice. Continue Reading
BY Steven Maginnis | Thursday, Jan 26, 2017 11:45am
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The Montclair Housing Commission, co-chaired by Harold Simon, met on January 25 to hear two presentations. The first presentation was from Frank Piazza, the administrative agent for the township’s affordable-housing program, in the process of getting applicants into available affordable-housing units. The process was deemed by commissioners and other attendees to be very complicated, and there was concern over how best to respond to nearly 4,000 people on the waiting list for housing. Continue Reading
BY Steven Maginnis | Wednesday, Jan 25, 2017 8:30am
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Updated with additional quotes regarding 25 mph issue from Councilor Baskerville.
Pomp and ceremony reigned at the Montclair Township Council’s first regular meeting of 2017. The January 24 session began with a celebration of the beginning of the “sister city” relationship between Montclair and Aquilonia, Italy, the resolution for which having been passed unanimously by the council as its first order of business for the night. Mayor Robert Jackson addressed the audience that gathered for the ceremony and noted that the township’s Italian-American population has long been a bedrock of the community. Mayor Jackson said he was pleased to be able to formalize its role in town by commencing this bond with Aquilonia.
Mayor Robert Jackson and the Montclair Township Council with friends and supporters of the successful effort to establish a sister-city relationship with Aquilonia, Italy.
Councilor-at-Large and former mayor Robert Russo did the honors by reading the official proclamation, which was followed by some words from Montclair resident Raffaele Marzullo, who spearheaded the effort to make Aquilonia a sister city and first presented the idea before the council in November. Marzullo, who is originally from Aquilonia, said he was grateful to the council for their support. He also said he would continue to lead the fight to save the Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish church, noting that the once-solidly Italian neighborhood around the church has become more diverse but that the parish remains a pillar of support for immigrants and people in need. Marzullo is a member of the church committee. Continue Reading
BY Steven Maginnis | Monday, Jan 23, 2017 11:44pm
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As if the nasty storm outside had been anticipated, the Montclair Board of Education presented a very light agenda for its January 23 meeting and wrapped things up in a little over half an hour. Interim Superintendent Ronald Bolandi even made note of the weather in his report.
The Montclair Board of Education
Superintendent Bolandi said that he hoped the nor’easter would let up in time for classes to open the following morning, but he conceded that the nature of the storm would have a worse effect on some Montclair neighborhoods than others. He explained that while some parts of town would be spared any damage, the possibility of other areas sustaining damage due to downed trees was great. The town, he said, had plenty of aging trees that were susceptible to being felled by the gusty winds. A wind advisory was in affect for the Western Essex area, which includes Montclair. Continue Reading
BY Steven Maginnis | Thursday, Jan 12, 2017 7:23am
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The Montclair Board of Education spent its January 11 workshop meeting looking back and looking forward. Interim Superintendent Ronald Bolandi gave a presentation of the district’s accomplishments in pursuing various initiatives and goals in recent years.
the Montclair Board of Education
Among the accomplishments he cited were developing a tutorial program in each school with after-school services and available busing for said services, initiatives to work with local clergy to bring tutoring to the neediest students, the development of an elementary-level literacy and math program with input from parents and staff, extensive training in the district’s “Undoing Racism” initiative, and developing a training program with the teachers’ union that employed full-day training as opposed to half-day sessions, which Superintendent Bolandi called counterproductive. He was particularly proud of the program to work with Montclair State University to assist the district with tutorial and staff development programs. The superintendent noted the involvement of Montclair State educational students in the program, and he credited Dr. Debbie Evans, the interim director of elementary education, for her efforts. Continue Reading
BY Steven Maginnis | Wednesday, Jan 11, 2017 9:00am
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The Montclair Township Council got off to a slow, quiet start for 2017 in its January 10 conference meeting. Five resolutions, which included the passage for the temporary 2017 budget, a purchase of anti-virus software for the township, and an application for a certified local grant from the New Jersey Historic Preservation funds, passed unanimously.
The one ordinance voted on, a first-reading measure amending the 2008 financial agreement for the Siena condominium apartment building, prompted resident Sandy Sorkin to ask for an explanation of it in public comment. Mayor Robert Jackson deferred to Township Attorney Ira Karasick, who explained it once the ordinance came up for a vote. Continue Reading